We fought for the fans, disappointed to not make the semi-finals: Bengaluru FC’s Marco Pezzaiuoli

Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli spoke about the importance of scoring goals from the chances they’ve missed while also expressing delight over their playing style, as his side takes on SC East Bengal in their final match of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco da Gama, Goa, on Saturday evening.

Pezzaiuoli remarked on his side’s upsetting season as the team were not able to make it to the top four, but was bullish about developing young players, implementing a new playing style, and building the character of Indian players. The 53-year-old was also grateful for the BFC fans’ constant support throughout the season through social media, and was confident of delivering a better performance in front of a full-packed stadium in the coming season.

Ahead of his side’s clash against SC East Bengal, the head coach addressed the media during the official pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the player’s press conference:

Final game of the season, what is the main aim of this game now that the semi-final spot is gone?

I think there are two points. The first point is to thank the supporters, to fight till the very last game. The second goal is that we reached more points than last season, and we want to increase those points. That is clearly the goal of this game.

What is your take of Bengaluru FC’s season?

We’ve done a lot of good things, but the important part was to reach the top four, which we didn’t achieve. We developed young players, players who didn’t play last season, we changed our playing style. We created chances, scored goals, we are good at set-pieces. Half of the players in the playing XI were new players, and they did well.

But in the end, we are BFC, we wanted to reach the top four and we couldn’t, which is disappointing. For example, against ATK Mohun Bagan, we lost 2-0, we made two or three mistakes, but in the end, when the opponent comes to you and tells you that they don't know how to play against us, it means something. That’s one part of football we did really well.

And the other part is that we didn’t score enough goals from the striker. I think the last pass was missing in the season which was the biggest issue for us as to why we didn’t reach the top four. And if you see the top four, the top strikers have more goals than our strikers. Also, we didn’t score enough goals from the chances we’ve had. It's not only the strikers or the foreigners or individuals in general, it is a team effort that requires support from each player.

You’ve always stressed on playing a very high intensity, high pressure football and now that you’ve had an interesting season to look at things, do you think that going forward, you can play the same kind of football?

I think yes, you saw it. I think we can play the same style with the squad we have. If you look through the season the opponents created very few chances against us. Our opponents had little ball possession. If you see ATK Mohun Bagan or FC Goa, they usually have more than 500 passes a game, and against us they have slightly more than just half of their passes, that means we’re doing something very well.

And I think the Indian players also like this style of playing, more short to the back, because when you drop back, you need to run a lot without the ball. After a few games this season, they analysed how we play and many teams like Kerala, Mumbai, Goa, and ATK Mohun Bagan had to change their style and had to play more offensive and field a higher up the pitch. We also showed the league how attractive football is played.

We've brought some new Indian players this season, and the League is a close affair now, which is more exciting. We’ve developed a new team, and in the next season, the foreign players need to step up and know how to play in this league. When you see players like Lara [Sharma], Pratik [Chaudhari] or Parag [Shrivas], they are totally different from last season. I can talk about many players like this that did well, but we are lacking the last press and that is something we will try to work on ahead of next season. 

Do you think going forward next season, you would like to bring in some forwards who can score more freely?

I think it’s not just about foreign players, it’s also about Indian players who need to step up. You know, we have Sunil Chhetri and I think we didn’t give him enough assists or he also ran out of luck to score more goals because normally the two penalties for him are a 100% two goals for him, and that’s what we are lacking.

And it’s not about foreign players, Prince [Ibara] scored some goals, but you need to increase your strikes as a striker. I don’t divide foreign and Indian players, the players who are in the attack need to score more goals. It’s not that you buy a striker and get 100% of the goals you want, it’s all about the team matching together at the right moment.

A word on your opposition, SC East Bengal, how do you rate them this season?

In both halves of the season, they’ve been fighting a lot that we saw in the 1-1 draw against them. They have a new coach; they play a totally different type of football, not only dropping back but also they try to play with the ball, creating chances. Doesn’t matter which kind of system, they change it regarding their opponent.

The foreign players they have brought in have more quality and are dangerous, which we saw especially in the second half of the season, all the games they played were tight ones. Not one team can easily beat them and I think it’s about your mentality, how you prepare your mind to be sharp, even if it’s the last game.

What I like about India and the players is that they go 100%. East Bengal, Odisha, NorthEast in the last games, they try to do their best. The character of the Indian players is very good in the ISL.

Do you have a message for the Bengaluru FC fans?

Yes, I want to thank them because they have supported us a lot throughout the season via social media. What I like about them is that they were critical of the team, especially in the beginning of the season, but I know they have their heart in the right position.

Of course, they are disappointed we didn’t reach the top four, but we have the chance to go top four in the next season together with our fans in the back. Maybe we were lacking the energy on the pitch that the fans were giving us.

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