Bengaluru FC came back from a goal down to play out a thrilling 1-1 draw with Army Red in their Durand Cup opener at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Monday. New signing Suresh Wangjam (81st) netted from the penalty spot late in the second half to cancel Liton Shil’s (45+4’) opener for Army Red.
The point meant Bengaluru FC moved up to second on the table behind leaders East Bengal (3 pts) and ahead of Army Red (1 pt) in Group A.
Naushad Moosa opted to start all of his seven first-team players with Aditya Patra in goal, Gursimrat Singh Gill, Sairuat Kima and Parag Shrivas in defence, Ajay Chhetri and Suresh Wangjam in the midfield and Edmund Lalrindika leading the attack.
In what turned out to be a game of equal exchanges, it was the Blue Colts who dominated majority of the proceedings in the first half. After a couple of close chances that fell for striker Edmund in the opening quarter, the Blues almost took the lead in the 22nd minute. Medio Biswa Darjee unleashed a powerful left-footer from 25-yards out which came off the crossbar after a spell of dominant play in the rival half.
With the Blue Colts controlling possession for longer periods, the Army Red side banked on frequent counter attacks. Patra pulled off a wonderful save when he denied rival skipper Suresh Meitei from point blank range in the 38th minute when the Army man was left unmarked in the BFC box.
Despite their dominance, the Blue Colts conceded right at the stroke of half time when attacker Liton Shil struck in the fourth minute of injury time. Defender Sunil B created space on the left flank, before sending in a low cross into the box to find Liton who scored on the slide, past a helpless Patra.
Being a goal down, Moosa decided to make his first change sending on midfielder Emanuel L in place of Chhetri as he looked to add more attacking threat.
While both sides continued to attack either goal fiercely, it was Bengaluru who finally pulled level in the 81st minute. Defender Namgyal Bhutia was brought down in the rival box by substitute Alwin E and the referee pointed to the spot. Suresh stepped up and calmly slotted the spot kick home to level scores in what was his first appearance in a Blue shirt.
Bengaluru had a great chance to kill the game in the 85th minute when Suresh set on a counter down the right. The midfielder with enough space to shoot, decided to pass it to substitute Advait Shinde instead, who also had made a run in the box, but ended up wasting the opportunity with the rival defence intercepting the ball.
Suresh had another chance in the dying moments of the game, when on another counter, he picked up the ball from Advait outside the box before firing it just wide of the upright as the game ended 1-1.
Bengaluru FC play their second game against East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium on August 14th.