In what was an excellent result for Minerva Punjab, they held Bengaluru FC to a 1-1 draw in a Round eight encounter of the I-League played at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru, on Saturday evening. Kamalpreet Singh forced Sandesh Jhingan (78' own goal) into knocking the ball into his own net after Sunil Chhetri (52') had given the hosts the lead after a barren first half.
The draw brings the visitors level on points (6) with Mumbai FC, who are eighth on the table. The result for the Blues, who have a game in hand, see them languish at fifth in the standings with 11 points while their three-game winning run at home was brought to an end.
With Juanan joining John Johnson in serving a two-match ban, Sandesh Jhingan was introduced in the line-up while Sena Ralte replaced Keegan Pereira in Albert Roca's starting line-up. The visitors' coach Surinder Singh named an unchanged eleven from the side that beat Mumbai FC 2-1 last weekend.
Minerva began on the offensive but it was the away team's goalkeeper who had to make the first save, in the 12th minute, as Arnab Das Sharma blocked Sunil Chhetri's effort from a Cameron Watson flag-kick that was earned by CK Vineeth.
David Ngaihte had the goal in his sight in the 21st minute, but the shot caused no worries to Amrinder Singh in the Bengaluru goal.
The away team's backline was holding well, especially with Loveday Enyinnaya standing in the way of a few attempts in the Minerva box. However, Vineeth did manage to slip down the left flank but his goalmouth-bound cross did not find a team-mate.
The first time Sunil Chhetri was denied by the post was a little after the half-hour mark, when the Bengaluru skipper's volley off Sena Ralte's delivery came off the crossbar, which was before Kareem Nurain's well struck free-kick went wide after taking a deflection off the wall at the other end.
Udanta Singh's chip too went over the bar after taking a deflection from Minerva's left wing-back Arashpreet Singh as the first half ended goalless.
The home fans didn't have to wait long for the opener in the second half as Chhetri smashed the rebound of Nurain's clearance after Udanta had pegged a cross from the right that was intended for Vineeth.
Arnab Das, who was left dumbfounded for the goal, came up with a smart save soon after, diving to his left, to deny Lenny's effort on goal after the Bengaluru midfielder was allowed to snatch the ball at the edge of the box.
Anirudh Thapa had one rare go at goal for the Punjabis in the second half, but it was driven straight at Amrinder. On the counter, Harmanjot Khabra saw his shot go marginally wide from the right side having received a cheeky lob from Udanta.
Udanta was in the thick of action creating chances for his side, but an unmarked Eugeneson Lyngdoh somehow managed to head wide a cross from the right in the 66th minute. Another incisive cross from the right by Udanta saw Vineeth fail to connect to the same as it flashed right across the face of the goal. That was before the right winger took matters in his own hands but shot wide in the 75th minute.
Then, completely against the run of play, Kamalpreet Singh's cross from the right took a nasty deflection from Jhingan that fooled Amrinder Singh who was not able to prevent it from getting past him into the back of the net.
Chhetri and substitute Mandar Rao Dessai had a couple of half chances to put Bengaluru back in the lead but they were denied by the woodwork once again. Cameron Watson, from a free-kick at the edge of the box, had played it square to Chhetri, whose shot took a touch of Arnab Das and came off the post.
The scoreline remained 1-1 at full time as Bengaluru are left hoping for East Bengal (19) to drop points against Mohun Bagan (16) in Sunday's Kolkata derby. Meanwhile, Minerva Punjab who are among the bottom cluster, have nothing to fear given their three-year immunity against relegation.