Soon after CK Vineeth's hat-trick against Mumbai FC helped Bengaluru FC win their third successive match in the I-League a little over a week ago, head coach Albert Roca told the press, "We are still far off from what I want. My impression is that we have a lot of concepts but we need to be more consistent. We must not have spells of play where the other team is doing well. We have to kill games as quickly as possible."
Those words have now come true in two matches in succession, not just jeopardising Bengaluru's title aspirations in the short term, but also giving the team's self-belief a bit of a dent ahead of their AFC Champions League qualifier away to Jordan's Al Wehdat on January 31.
Against both East Bengal and on Friday evening at the Tilak Maidan against Churchill Brothers, Bengaluru went ahead and then conceded two goals to lose.
To compound matters, in the concluding stages of the game against Churchill, centre-back John Johnson hacked into Richard Costa in the middle of the pitch, earning himself a straight red. On his way out, he appeared to get into a heated exchange with members of the Churchill bench.
It seemed to be a different story early on in the match, when Bengaluru were given a lucky break with Honduras striker Roby Norales winning a penalty for what appeared to be no more than a brush by full-back Fulganco Cardozo. Sunil Chhetri converted the resultant penalty, bringing up his first goal in competitive football in more than three months.
The fault-lines were visible from the start, though, as Roca heavily rotated his squad by taking out Sena Ralte, Lenny Rodrigues and Udanta Singh. In the absence of Ralte, Nishu Kumar was often found out of his depth against Churchill's right-winger Surabuddin Mollick. Anthony Wolfe and Chesterpaul Lyngdoh also played their best games this season in Churchill shirts, and the Goans played the perfect game on the counter on the night.
The co-ordination in defence for Bengaluru was poor, with Johnson or Juan Antonio often playing one of the Churchill attacking players on-side. Wolfe scored the equaliser in the first half by sneaking in behind Johnson to poke the ball past Amrinder Singh, and then turned provider in the second half for a similar finish by Chesterpaul.
Bengaluru had their chances, but their overall poise on the ball was poor. There were clumsy tackles, speculative long-range efforts, and when they did put together a decent-enough move, goalkeeper Priyant Kumar Singh was at his best for Churchill.
Roca will want more from his players, especially the marquee names like Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who looked unsure of his role against Churchill and has generally not found his feet yet this season.
"We are looking for the perfect team, but it never happens. In football, it continues, and we have to adjust," Roca had told the press after the 3-0 win over Mumbai, the last time they picked up points in the league.
Against a West Asian team that has a record of having won five of six matches in AFC competitions -- scoring 18 goals along the way -- against Indian opposition, Bengaluru will have to be at their best in Jordan.
They will take heart from the fact that it's a difficult but not impossible task, as East Bengal showed in an AFC Cup game in Zarqa in April 2008, beating Al Wehdat 2-0.
One gets the impression that Roca, given charge of a team that has always set high standards of performances since their formation in 2013, would be pleased with a result even half that good.