One major reason to play Adil in that position instead of Sarthak Golui was to mark Chhetri.
The famous Viking clap, loud Puneri dhols, and the ever-animated Ranko Popovic added some much-needed colour to the 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final between FC Pune City and Bengaluru FC.
Bengaluru FC had finished the group stages of the ISL with 40 points in 18 games, which is eight points above the second placed Chennaiyin FC. Albert Roca’s front men Sunil Chhetri and Miku who grabbed 24 goals combined have played a decisive role to achieve this magical feat.
On Wednesday, the pair was well shut down by Ranko Popovic’s tactics to avoid the danger of conceding a goal at home. He deployed ‘utility man’ Adil Khan as right-back to stop Chhetri from posing a menace from the flanks and it worked perfectly. Whenever the Bengaluru skipper tried to float in from the left, he would find Adil asserting pressure, which would not allow him to link up with his partner Miku, who has netted the ball 14 times this season.
One major reason to play Adil in that position instead of Sarthak Golui was to mark Chhetri. “My aim was to stop Chhetri bhai from creating any danger from the left wing. I have played against him in the I-league, when I played for Churchill Brothers and I know what kind of threat he can be at times,” says Adil, who gained in confidence with each tackle and to the chants of ‘Pune ki shaan, Adil Khan,’ which kept getting louder. Being such an experienced lad himself, his job was to calm down his young counterparts.
“I was never under pressure. I told the boys that BFC is a team that we defeated last season when I was with Churchill and we could do it again because we have a stronger side. After such a terrific performance, I think we can pull off another marvel in the second leg,” he says.
Another individual who stood out to make sure that Pune does not concede was Marko Stankovic, who was also the Man of the Match. The January signing has become an influential player for the orange brigade in the midfield.
Even on Wednesday, his work rate in the midfield was exceptional. He won the ball, intercepted the opposition’s passes, moved the ball with long passes and tried a couple of long-range shots.
Popovic approached the Austrian personally to join the club and he is justifying it. “The coach knows me the best and that is why he got me here. I knew that the midfield position suits me the best and I showed my quality yesterday,” says Stankovic.“For the next leg, we just have to play like we did and not allow them to breach the defense. I believe we can do it away from home as well,” he adds.
The sides will meet in Bengaluru for the second leg of the semi-final on March 11. If the sides play a draw that involves goals, then Pune will be through with away goal advantage