It was a manic 90 minutes on Saturday between Nangkiew Irat and Ryntih, but if either team had slowed things down a bit, they might have won the match, opines Bhogtoram Mawroh

If one is asked about the one club which has dominated Indian football in the last few years it will be difficult not to mention Bengaluru FC. The club have won a trophy every single season they have been in India’s top flight. Apart from winning every single domestic trophy, they came close to being the country’s first ever intercontinental champions as well.

Unlike the other corporate entries like DSK Shivajians and Gokulam Kerala FC, Bengaluru decided to compete for the trophy from their first season itself. To achieve they purchased some top players like Sunil Chhetri and brought it Ashley Westwood as the coach. Later Eugeneson Lyngdoh joined them and the rest, as they say, is history.

After gaining entry to the 2019 Shillong Premier League through auction, Ryntih made a big statement by purchasing top players from different clubs of Meghalaya. Some of the players who joined the club have already won the SPL (from Langsning), while others are promising young players who have I-League experience (from Shillong Lajong). Such a wholesale purchase of players can reduce the chances of younger players getting entry into the first team. Ryntih took a long time to register their first point in the U-18 SPL. I suspected that the management’s focus on the senior team might have led to the junior team being neglected. But after having watched Ryntih play against Nangkiew Irat yesterday I am surprised at their struggle.

Ryntih looked a good team with some fine players in their ranks. At the same time, though, the match also gave a glimpse into the problems that might have plagued them. The most important problem Ryntih have to solve is improving the communication between the defenders and the goalkeeper. Ryntih’s goalkeeper had to make a close range save in the first half. The situation could have been avoided if only the goalkeeper had come out of the box sooner. This happened time and again in the first and second halves.

The second problem is defending in general. Ryntih’s defending, especially in the first half, looked a little casual and I was wondering when a mistake would lead to a goal. The goal ultimately did arrive but I did not see how it came about. Having forgotten my umbrella in a shop the night before, I had to run for cover when the rain descended as the first half was coming to a close. As I was sipping my tea in the shop I saw the net disturbed by a shot from Albert Nongsiej. Almost immediately Ryntih replied through Mewan Laloo, which I missed as well.

From Ryntih’s point of view, if they want to win more points in the future the defence needs a leader: someone who can keep everyone on their toes. With the goalkeeper looking a little slow to react to situations it is up to one of the centre backs to take more responsibility. Initially Ryntih were the ones who were creating some good early chances. There was some very good combination play on the right side with Arbunsing Warjri playing a beautiful cross and Mewan Laloo heading the ball wide.

After having started with a 4-4-2 it was important Ryntih’s wingers had a good game and initially they did. There were also a lot of balls played to the two front players, Mewan and Baianeh Wahlang. The tactic was to get the ball to one of the strikers to flick it behind for the other to run onto or hold the ball and bring others into the game. Baia held the ball quite well but instead of linking with his partner he kept taking the ball into the midfield, thus negating the threat. Also, when the ball was flicked by Mewan there was no one chasing the ball. Suffice it to say that the 4-4-2 did not work.

It was not a surprise that in the second half the system changed to a 4-2-1-3 with Baia going into the midfield and Damebanshan Khongsit playing further upfront. However, I will not suggest abandoning the system entirely. The one type of player which I think Ryntih (the senior team) don’t have is a number 9. Looking at the players they have signed there is a surplus of attacking midfielders but no one who can play upfront on his own. This means that there is a real possibility that if things don’t work out either Baia or Mewan might be called upon to play the role for the senior team. Of course they will have to improve their performance considerably if they are to be given the opportunity. This possibility should spur both players to try harder in future matches.

The other player from Ryntih who I think should definitely get a chance to be part of the senior squad is Khongsit. The senior team already have many attacking midfielders who play similar roles like Khongsit does for this team. Still, it will good for him to be part of the dressing room and learn from senior professionals. Being the most creative player in the team, he always looked threatening with the ball at his feet. In the first half he played as one of the two midfielders but in the second he played as the number 10. The change in system from 4-4-2 to 4-2-1-3 was, I think, also about getting more from Khongsit. He, however, needs a lot of polishing. The one thing that he has to improve on is linking with the attacking players. For this he has to look at how his counterpart, Nangkiew Irat’s captain, Shano Tariang, played the game.

Nangkiew Irat lined up in a 4-1-3-2 with Shano and Albert Nongsiej leading the line. Shano, however, was more of the roving forward who had creative responsibilities as well. Whenever he got the ball he was looking for players in better positions to pass the ball. In the process he did make many mistakes, like when in the first half his pass lacked the pace to reach Albert. Shano also missed some good chances to score on his own – in the second half having found himself in lot of space inside the opposition box he fluffed his shot. Despite the mistakes he made, the good thing was that he kept trying to bring other team mates into the game. That is something which Khongsit failed in. There was an instance in the second half when Shano played a ball between the defender’s legs to his fellow striker. The shot, however, was well blocked by the goal keeper. That one moment of calmness that Shano displayed was however missing for most of the match, not just from him but from almost all the players from both sides.

Most of the players were let down by their technique in crucial moments of the match. This was mainly because of the lack of calmness and composure. The entire match was played at a good tempo. The players harried each other and the early ball was played with continuous regularity. Many of the passes, though, whether short or long, lacked precision. Most frustrating, however, was the first touch from many players, which was highly disappointing. Even when Khongsit finally found a good pass to Ryntih’s wide attacker, poor ball control led to the attack breaking down.

The game was a 90 long. The way both sets of players approached it, however, made it seem like the game was going to last for only 30 minutes. Everyone was in a hurry and that led to players making dozens of mistakes – lots of miss passes, disappointing ball control and lack of coordination between players. Watching the game, I was wondering what would happen if one of the teams had tried slowing the tempo of the game. That calmness in all the frenzy might have given them an advantage. The modern game is fast, no doubt about it. But what differentiates good teams/players from others is that they don’t lose their technique or tactics because of the pace.

On this front, both Ryntih and Nangkiew Irat have some way to go. Nangkiew Irat have always produced good teams. They were U-19 SPL champions in the past. One of their alumni is Chesterpaul Lyngdoh, a future star of Indian football. I hope many more like him can emerge from this group of players as well. Ryntih, on the other hand, are new entrants at this level. With the senior team looking well poised to challenge for the SPL trophy, the same will be expected of their junior team as well soon. That may not be possible this season but full points in the remaining matches are a real possibility. All the best to both the teams for their future matches!

(TSR file photo of Ryntih (in red & white))

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