On a chilly night at the Kanteerava against Bengaluru FC (BFC), Jamshedpur FC showed that pragmatism and efficiency can be more crucial to winning games than attacking flair. In the battle of the league's second-best scorers in BFC against the league's most miserly defence, Jamshedpur came out 1-0 with a goal right at the death, dashing hopes of a blue Christmas.
BFC dominated, with 19 shots and 10 on target and 68 percent of the ball, but couldn't prevent their second straight loss of the season. With BFC's ambassador Rahul Dravid in attendance, it was Jamshedpur that showed what 'The Wall' meant, setting up a fifth clean sheet in six games. No team can boast of such stats from the opening six games this season.
"We had to play according to our strengths. We worked very hard on that," Jamshedpur coach Steve Coppell said after the game.
"To a certain extent, I would say we rode our luck but Subrata (Pal) made some good saves. They missed a couple of opportunities. All in all, we had a couple of good chances, we won the penalty and we played a full part in the game and it was always going to be a tough match."
It was a "collective" team effort, as Coppell puts it. When BFC's Sunil Chhetri was through on goal, there was Subrata to save. When Miku almost knocked it in, there was Tiri to clear. When Chhetri or Edu Garcia tried to slip in from the right, there was Souvik Chakraborty. Coppell said Mehtab Hossain and Trindade also had a fantastic game, breaking things up in midfield.
"It's a shame," BFC coach Albert Roca said after the game. "Perhaps we are not that good, but we are not as bad either. I think we didn't deserve to win, (and) we didn't deserve to lose. We found a team that would not give a lot of space. We tried everything. It was not our day.
"They have not done too much to win the game. They have two chances. So for me, it wasn't a fair result. But they did their job well."
For all that Bengaluru created, it was Jamshedpur that almost scored the game's opener -- Jerry hitting just wide after being put through by Kervens Belfort in the 61st minute. BFC were reminded of what a lapse in concentration could cost them.
Yet, it was precisely what gave Jamshedpur the injury-time winner -- Trindade slotting home a penalty after Rahul Bheke fouled a speedy Sameehg Doutie -- and with their defensive shape intact, they held on for only their second win of the season.
Coppell says Jamshedpur's defensive style has evolved not out of willfulness but logic. "We've been a little bit compromised by the pitch in Jamshedpur. It's new and doesn't bind very well. It's hard to pass the ball, so that affects the way we play. We are hoping over the course that the two-three weeks that we've been away, the pitch will develop a bit and get firmer so we can try and play a progressive style of play. I'm quite pleased to be known as a defensive unit because we worked hard from day one. So (if) that's the label that people give us it's okay," he said.