Champions Bengaluru FC began their Indian Super League campaign with a frustrating goalless draw against NorthEast United in a game played under more than just a steady downpour at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Monday. The better team throughout the ninety minutes, Carles Cuadrat’s did all the right things in the final third, spare stick the ball into the back of the net.
Pegged back with injuries to Albert Serran and Erik Paartalu, Cuadrat’s season-opening eleven had Ashique Kuruniyan make his debut, but as a left wing-back, while Rahul Bheke and Juanan Gonzalez in the centre, and Nishu Kumar on the right completed Bengaluru’s back-line. There were two more debutants in Manu Onwu and Raphael Augusto, as Chhetri and Udanta operated in familiar territory in attack.
Bengaluru, evidently the team with a plan, stamped their authority on the first half, creating chances they should have done better to put away. Kuruniyan, set off on a marauding run, leaving three players in his wake before firing wide. But it was Udanta who was guilty of squandering Bengaluru’s best chance. Threaded through with a precise pass from Augusto, Udanta had the time and the space to palace it beyond Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, but shooting woefully off target.
NorthEast United, using Asamoah Gyan as the lone target man, didn’t give the Bengaluru defence any reason to panic. The Blues did have a momentary lapse of concentration that nearly gifted the Highlanders what would have been an undeserved lead. In looking to deal with a scramble in the box, Bheke chose to head the ball back to Gurpreet, unaware of a red shirt that intercepted, but Martin Chaves hot wide from close in what was a reprieve for Bengaluru.
NorthEast were left feeling hard done minutes into the second half when, from a counter, Gyan found his chip ricochet off the crossbar. The Bengaluru showers played true to forecast soon after as Bengaluru pushed hard for the goal in the pouring rains. Nishu almost turned up with the answer in the 65th minute when he hit a rasping volley on target, only for Chowdhury to match it with a terrific save.
With ten minutes to play for, Cuadrat made his first change, bringing on Eugeneson Lyngdoh for Khabra in a bid to add more teeth to the attack. The Blues’ number 7 did enough to cause panic in the visitors’ box with his set-pieces, but the final whistle was blown the scores unchanged.
Bengaluru next travel to Goa, where they will face last years’ finalists FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium, on October 28th.