ISL 2018-19: It's high time Bengaluru FC's match-winner Rahul Bheke plays for India
At the end of 2014, Mohammed Rafique headed Atletico de Kolkata into the ISL history books. It was the last play of the first ever final of the ISL. Six minutes into stoppage time, the score was 0-0 and Rafique found the net after receiving the ball from a corner.
That was the winning goal and although he hasn't shone too brightly since he will always be remembered for scoring the first goal in ISL finals.
Four years and four months later, in Mumbai again, a little bit further away from the DY Patil Stadium, at the Mumbai Football Arena, it was a corner again, it was a European player taking it again, it was a header again. But it was a different edition, a different team, and a different head.
Rahul Bheke recieved a pacy outswinger from Dimas Delgado 15-16 yards out in the 117th minute of the fifth ISL final and guided the ball beautifully into the net. He wasn't in proper balance but he used his hands very efficiently to keep his head steady. There was a lovely dip on the ball which meant it went just over the keeper but still went in.
The ball had a bit of spin as well which took it towards the keeper's top right corner, making it near impossible for him to tip it over. Bheke probably wasn't thinking of all these when he got the head to the ball but he definitely wanted to score!
He hadn't scored till this season but already had 2 goals before the Super League broke for Christmas. The goal in the final on Sunday will undoubtedly be his most special one for a long time, that is until he scores for the country.
Maybe, he will do that soon, as well. He should play for the country, first, you're thinking, right now. But how can he be ignored now?
Speaking of the Asian Cup and the country, Bheke was very unlucky to have not been selected even in the 34-member probables list for the tournament. Stephen Constantine received a huge thumbs down from some Indian fans, experts like Paul Masefield and Russell Osman, even BFC player Erik Paartalu. India had a decent run but there were a lot missed opportunities on goal, especially off corners. This is where Bheke's presence was missed.
Yes, he just has 3 goals but the way he gets into the box to receive the ball can make things happen. The defence of the opposition would've had one more thing to worry about. This may seem like hindsight but it's absolutely not.
Anyone who followed Bengaluru FC's matches during the first half of the ISL would know of Bheke's importance. Not only shooting at goal, he has been creating enough chances as well.
The BFC defender sent in around 20 crosses into the box and assisted a goal during this season. His defensive stats are right up there too with him having more than 40 tackles and 80 clearances to his name. The fact that he has done all this in barely 20 games speaks volumes of his potential.
Bheke does venture forward but the crucial part is that when the defence faces any sort of pressure he will get back in position in a jiffy. This is where, once again, one would feel India missed a trick when they left him out for the Asian Cup.
Like a joker can be any card that the player chooses, Bheke can play at any defensive position the coach asks him to. That would've added better balance to the side especially in such highly competitive tournaments.
With Subhasish Bose getting forward on one flank, someone like Bheke doing the same on the other would've worked out well.
At least now, with Stephen Constantine out of the way India can look to include him in the scheme of things. After all every team in the world is hunting for the X-factor and Rahul Bheke is certainly a player who brings that to the plate.