Bengaluru FC helped themselves to their fifth draw of the 2017 I-League season at the JL Nehru Stadium on Wednesday evening with a 1-1 scoreline against struggling Chennai City FC.
After a dull first half, John Johnson (53') [OG] comically opened the scoring with a brilliant header into his own net. Daniel Lalhlimpuia (58') restored parity to save his side's blushes but that was not enough as the title-holders returned to dropping points in the league.
Chennai City decided to pull out a few surprises by making three changes to the team that drew against DSK Shivajians. Out went Marcos Vinicius, Joseph Clemente and Haroon Amiri while Soosai Raj, Abhishek Das and Raegan Albarnas were given starts.
Bengaluru FC made just a couple of changes to the team that edged out Minerva Punjab in Ludhiana. Roca brought in Mandar Rao Dessai and Daniel Lalhlimpuia for CK Vineeth and Marjan Jugovic.
The game started at breakneck speed with Bengaluru fashioning a couple of early opportunities. Udanta and Chhetri combined well before the Indian skipper laid the ball off for Mandar who had a clear shot at goal but Echezona came up with a brilliant block to divert the ball for a corner.
Immediately after, Udanta sent in another cross which found Daniel inside the six-yard box. But before the youngster could sort his feet out, Echezona stole the ball away. The pattern of the game remained the same with Chennai holding off wave after wave of Bengaluru attacks.
Chhetri then played a one-two with Daniel before setting up the young forward who saw his shot blocked by Ravanan in the ninth minute.
Chennai City, who were under the cosh for most of the initial quarter of the match, slowly started gaining a foothold in the match and fashioned their first chance on the counter in the 26th minute. It was Charles who made the chance by outrunning Juanan and Nishu on a breakaway and squared the ball for Raegan who was a bit early into the box and couldn’t meet it.
Soon after, Echezona was called into action again to block a close-range shot from Udanta before Abhishek Das had to block a vicious volley from Juanan.
Just before the half-time whistle, a poor back pass from Soosai Raj gave Bengaluru a chance to have a go at goal. Daniel latched on to it and squared a pass for Chhetri who looked set to knock it in but for a vital interception from Ravanan who knocked it away at full stretch.
The first half ended without any goals with Chennai City the happier side.
The second half also started with Bengaluru dominating the ball but against the run of play, the hosts took the lead, albeit in fortuitous circumstances in the 53rd minute. Nandhakumar found some space down the right on a counter and the youngster sent in a dangerous cross which was headed into his own net by John Johnson, sending the home team into ecstasy.
But it did not take the defending champions long to hit back. In the 58th minute, Daniel played in Udanta in the Chennai box with a clever chip and the winger flashed a low cross across but it was parried by Karanjit on to the path of Daniel who applied the finishing touches.
But the game slowed down a bit after that but not before Debabrata had to come up with a goalline clearance off Juanan’s header that seemed destined for the net after Chhetri teed him off with a header.
Towards the end of the half, the game slowed down considerably as Roca sent on CK Vineeth and Marjan Jugovic in a bid to wrest a winner against Chennai who were sitting back and defending in numbers.
There was controversy at the end of the game when Debabrata Roy appeared to handle the ball as he tried to chest a long ball to his goalkeeper and the shouts for a penalty fell on the deaf ears of the referee.
There was more drama at the end when a header across the box from a freekick looked set to be knocked in by Juanan but Ravanan came up with an acrobatic clearance to deny Bengaluru a winner.
Chennai City looked extremely happy with the point while Bengaluru will be disappointed to drop points in a round where East Bengal and Mohun Bagan dropped points.