ISL 2020-21: Meet Bengaluru FC's all-weather player, Harmanjot Khabra

ISL 2020: Harmanjot Khabra’s work often goes unnoticed. He is not the most technically gifted footballer in the Bengaluru FC line-up, but he is indispensable to his coach.

In his five matches so far this season, Harmanjot Khabra has played as centre-back, right-back and as an emergency left-back.   -  ISL / Sportzpics

Harmanjot Khabra’s season thus far can be summed up by three passage of plays in Bengaluru FC’s matches against Chennaiyin FC, Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC. With the scores level at 0-0 against Chennaiyin, Khabra, who was playing as a right-back for the first time this season, was found in space to play in an inviting cross to his attackers. Khabra instead dragged the ball back and played a back pass from which Bengaluru conceded possession.

Against the Blasters, with BFC leading 3-2, Suresh Wangjam played the ball down the right to Khabra, who took a couple of touches to set himself, looked up and measured his cross to the back post for his skipper Sunil Chhetri to fire in a powerful header.

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After the game, the club posted a video on its social media handle providing insight into its pre-worked routine that lead to that goal. Bengaluru manager Carles Cuadrat relayed clips from the match against Chennaiyin, re-emphasising the move that the Blues can capitalise on. “Space is there. It’s what we spoke about, Khabra. Control and (play) the ball over the central defenders. We know that Sunil is winning a lot of headers, so we can try the second post,” Cuadrat pointed out.

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In the next game against Odisha, with the scores locked at 0-0, Dimas Delgado made a long diagonal switch to Khabra on the right. Khabra killed the pace off the ball with a superb first touch, rolled it to his left to evade his marker and, this time, swung in a left-footed cross into the penalty area, where Chhetri out-jumped the full-back marking him to power home a header.

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Chhetri later explained how the Bengaluru players work on these crosses for long periods, often to the concern of the coaches. “Khabra is persistent on that,” said the Blues skipper. “He always calls me and says, ‘Come, let’s do some crossing.’ Right foot. Left foot. Most of the times in training he doesn’t get it right, but in matches he is precise.”

Khabra’s work often goes unnoticed. He is not the most technically gifted footballer in the Bengaluru line-up, but he is indispensable to his coach. He is there to do one job: play whatever role(s) his team requires him to do. In his five matches so far this season, he has played as centre-back, right-back and as an emergency left-back. In the games to come, he will likely be called up to play as a defensive midfielder, his original position when he signed for the club in 2017. And he does them all without any fuss.