Bengaluru FC's five-game winning run was brought to a halt but they did manage a 1-1 draw at home to FC Pune City in the sixteenth round of the 2017-18 Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday.
Sarthak Golui (22') scored first for the visitors but Miku (75') put the hosts back into the game as the Blues recorded their first ever draw in the ISL.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan, Lenny Rodrigues, Dimas Delgado and Sunil Chhetri all started after being given time off midweek from AFC Cup commitments. Toni Dovale and Miku too were involved from the beginning with the latter missing their last ISL match, a 2-0 win over FC Goa.
Surprisingly, Marcos Tebar passed a late fitness test, keeping Marko Stankovic away from the lineup. However, Ranko Popovic decided to shuffle his formation and play both Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelinho up top in a flat 4-4-2 system.
The match got off to a cagey start from the perspective of the FC Pune City backline. Baljit Sahni almost scored an own goal but in the end, it turned out to be a lucky goalline clearance in the opening minute from Miku's low cross into the box.
Thereafter, the impetus lay with Pune City as Marcelinho had a couple of half chances, with one of them going wide.
Rahul Bheke's awkward clearance ricocheted off Diego Carlos' thighs and the ball bumped forward for Marcelinho on the left. The Brazilian squared it for Alfaro but with two defenders crowding him out, the former NorthEast man showed great presence of mind to flick sideways for an onrushing Sarthak Golui.
The defender could do no wrong as he slammed the ball into the net to break the deadlock.
Bengaluru had most of the possession but none of their forward players except Toni Dovale showed much promise in the first half. Marcos Tebar, though not a hundred percent fit put in another impeccable shift to break opposition attacks. However, yellow cards for both Marcelinho and Alfaro soured the half-time result, with the latter now suspended for Pune's next game.
Immediately after the break, Bengaluru looked a revitalised side with skipper Sunil Chhetri more involved in proceedings, automatically making the hosts look better in the final third.
The Indian stalwart's appeal for a penalty in the 69th minute was turned down by the referee. Television replays went on to prove that Baljit Sahni did, in fact, raise his hand to deflect the ball from Chhetri's cross and thus, Bengaluru FC were robbed of a definite penalty kick.
After that setback, Miku put his hand up and equalised much to the delight of the home crowd with Thongkhosiem Haokip creating the goal only a minute after his introduction. A ball into the box was poorly cleared by Sahni and the loose ball was picked up by Haokip, whose low cross was tapped into the net by the Venezuelan - only his second at home out of his twelve goals.
Pune City failed to claw back into the game after they conceded in the 75th minute and allowed Bengaluru to dictate play in the final minutes. Neither sides threatened further, thus sharing the spoils to keep the playoff scenario interesting.