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ISL 2021 -- Late equalizer gets Bengaluru FC a point from Odisha, winless streak continues

Bengaluru FC’s search for an elusive first win under Interim Head Coach Naushad Moosa continued, following a 1-1 draw against Odisha FC at the Fatorda Stadium, in Goa, on Sunday. Diego Mauricio’s early goal (8’) was canceled out by an Erik Paartalu header in the 82nd minute, with the result keeping the Blues in seventh place on the table, four points adrift of the playoff spots.

Moosa made no changes to the side that started against Kerala Blasters on Wednesday, while his counterpart Stuart Baxter made one change to his team as Steven Taylor replaced Mohammad Sajid Dhot.

Bengaluru started stronger of the two sides, with Cleiton Silva, Suresh Wangjam and Sunil Chhetri combining well in the attacking third to create multiple chances. Despite their early dominance, it was Odisha that took the lead against the run of play. Jerry Mawihmingthanga's quick free-kick in the 8th minute found Manuel Onwu on the right flank, and the Spaniard’s low cross was poked home by Diego Mauricio to give the visitors the lead.

Bengaluru brushed off the setback, stayed on top of Odisha and could have ended the half on level terms if not for two excellent goal-line saves from Odisha custodian Arshdeep Singh. Rahul Bheke's long throw in the 38th minute was cleared by Steven Taylor before Paartalu got to the rebound with a left-footed strike on the turn, which was denied by Arshdeep’s strong left arm. Only three minutes later, the 'keeper was called to action once again when Bheke's header from Cleiton's corner had to be kept out on the line.

Moosa rang in his first change at the break when striker Kristian Opseth replaced Amay Morajkar, and the Norwegian could have had a goal to his name in the opening stages of the second period. His free-kick, which dipped at the last moment was saved by Arshdeep. The Odisha shot-stopper was called to action only moments later when Gaurav Bora’s miscued clearance was goalward, and had to be tipped away. 

Past the hour mark, Bengaluru went close to getting an equaliser twice in the space of a minute. Arshdeep failed to collect Parag Shrivas’ long throw and the ball fell to Opseth, who couldn’t take advantage. Later, the Blues won a free-kick on the edge of the box after Chhetri was brought down and Cleiton’s effort beat the ‘keeper but not the crossbar.

Bengaluru's relentless pressure finally paid off in the 82nd minute when Silva’s corner fell for Paartalu, whose header could only be parried into the net by Arshdeep. The Australian’s second goal of the campaign gave the Blues much needed impetus to go forward in attack and Moosa’s men continued to throw bodies forward in search of the game-winning goal. 

The turnaround could have been complete when Chhetri brought down a long pass in the box and had the goal at his mercy at the end of regulation time. Making space for himself, the skipper’s effort flew just over the bar. Bengaluru had more chances through Cleiton and Opseth, but the winner continued to elude them as the points were shared in Margao.

Bengaluru take on Hyderabad FC, at the Tilak Maidan, on January 28 in their next fixture.

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