Mumbai: Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri was all smiles after his side lifted the 2019 Indian Super League. Rahul Bheke header in extra time was enough for the Blues to triumph over FC Goa and become the first side in history to have won the I-League and the ISL. This also helped them seal a spot in the upcoming AFC Cup.
“Right on top, No. 2,” the 34-year-old said at the post match press conference when asked about how highly he rates this win. “The first one will be the (AFC) final in Doha, against the team (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya of Iran) which we lost. After that, this is a win.
“When they asked me in the interview last year, I said next year we’re going to come back,” he continued. “We didn’t speak about it, but everyone knew, we took it one game at a time, one day at a time. And eventually, we wanted to give ourselves a chance.
“Right from him (points at Carles Cuadrat on his right) to the ball boy, everyone wanted this. With all the planning and resting of players, we wanted to win this badly. We lost the final last year, and this is a sweet win. And Asia, we are back!
Reflecting on the game and the manner in which they scored, the forward revealed that there has been intensive behind the scenes work.
"Last year we conceded off set pieces and we were dominant until those two goals, so we were sure on not letting it happen today.
“We have charts in the bathroom for set-pieces,” he disclosed.
“Every training session we had to stand there and master hand signals because every freekick and every corner has a different sign. Today I asked Juanan before the game and he abused me and said even he didn't know, so we had to ask a third guy.”
“We have conceded only one goal off set-pieces this season and three goals off penalties and that's commendable. Five out of 10 goals are scored from set-pieces and we worked really hard on them," he added.
The 34-year-old also asserted that there was a lot of focus by the attackers on helping out in defence when the ball was with the opposition.
"We ensured that whenever an attack is finished, we came back to defend. It was paramount for us. As soon as we lost the ball, we made sure we came back to defend and made sure that we had the numbers in the back. (Harmanjot) Khabra and Nishu (Kumar) get security when Udanta and I come back. It was amazing that Corominas had no chances in the three games against us.”
When asked about the influence Carles Cuadrat has had this season and the difference between his style and former coach Albert Roca’s, Chhetri reckoned that was only a minor variation.
"They both have a similar mentality – he's slightly different but not vastly. When we went to school this year, everything was more or less the same, with minute changes. Gerrard (assistant coach) has been a great help. It has progressive from what we learned under (Albert) Roca and now under Carles.”