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ISL 2023-24: Zaragoza disappointed as BFC crashes out of playoffs race with loss to East Bengal FC (WATCH)

East Bengal FC beat Bengaluru FC by 2-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Sunday. A goal in either halves by Saul Crespo and Cleiton Silva ensured that the penalty by Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri was cancelled to help the Red & Gold Brigade break into the sixth spot in the standings.

football ISL 2023-24: Zaragoza disappointed as Bengaluru FC crashes out of playoffs race with loss to East Bengal FC snt
First Published Apr 8, 2024, 11:16 AM IST

Bengaluru FC's Head Coach Gerard Zaragoza expressed disappointment with his team's performance following their defeat to East Bengal FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) match held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday.

The Blues found themselves trailing after Saul Crespo successfully converted a penalty, giving East Bengal FC the lead in the first half. Despite a valiant effort, Bengaluru FC managed to equalize through Sunil Chhetri's penalty in the second half. However, their former player Cleiton Silva dashed their hopes by scoring the winning goal for the hosts. As a result, Bengaluru FC's playoff aspirations were dashed, while East Bengal FC climbed to sixth place in the standings, bolstering their bid for a spot in the final playoffs.

Zaragoza criticized his team's inability to dominate duels during the match and expressed dissatisfaction with their lackluster performance in the first half, where they were outclassed by East Bengal FC.

"We were not in the match during the (first) 45 minutes. The first half was maybe the worst from when I have been BFC coach. We were not there. We could not win duels, and finally, football is about being able to win duels. And we lost 45 minutes. We could not enter the game. And we put them in the game, and then it came to the (1-0) and (we can discuss) many, many (other) things that it's better to keep with me," he said during the post-match press conference.

Zaragoza was also queried about his assessment regarding goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's handling of Nishu Kumar's cross, which ultimately resulted in Silva's decisive goal.

"The reality is that I did not see it on TV and I don't know, I need to analyze it. The reality is that we have a big man on the wall and we have three centre-backs at that moment. The only man who can score a goal for East Bengal FC (Silva) was scoring," the Spaniard responded.  

"If we want really to be in the playoffs, we need to compete and we need to fight and we need to win duels. Without this, it's normal that we are out. It's completely normal. But what I can say is, believe me, next season we will return and Bengaluru FC will be inside the top three minimum," he stated.

This marked the ninth loss of the season for Bengaluru FC. While their performance at home has been commendable, securing victory in five out of 11 matches on their home ground, their away record has been dismal, with no wins on the road. Zaragoza admitted that his team has struggled to achieve positive results away from home and emphasized the importance of replicating their home form during away games.

"We need leaders inside the pitch, it's something we will arrange. What is true is that we can be happy with what we did at home, four clean sheets from six games. The mentality of the team is amazing. But it's clear that what we away from home, there is not a lot there to be in the top six. It's something we need to work on," he said as the press conference concluded.

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