Bengaluru FC played out a 1-1 draw against Indian Air Force FT in its opening match of the 2023 Durand Cup, at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan, in Santoshpur, on Monday.
Vivek Kumar’s opener in the first half was cancelled out by a strike from summer signing Salam Johnson Singh, as Bibiano Fernandes’ side began its campaign with a point.
Bengaluru named three first-team players in their starting eleven, with Parag Shrivas, Shankar Sampingiraj and Salam Johnson Singh among those given the nod. Indian Air Force, meanwhile, started with experienced striker Zico Sanga in attack, with Mohd Aqib and Mandeep Singh on the flanks.
A cagey affair ensued and it was the Blues who had the first effort of the game when Edmund Lalrindika, played through by Shrivas, managed to dribble past his marker and get his shot away, but his effort was inches wide of the mark.
However, it was the Air Force side that opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Shrivas’ effort to control the ball saw the centre-back lose his footing, allowing Vivek Kumar to slot home past Sahil Poonia, who was caught out of position.
Bengaluru pushed forward and came close to an equaliser in the 38th minute when Thokchom, with power, whipped in Edmund’s precise through ball. However, Johnson, who managed to get to the end of the cross, couldn’t get enough purchase on his effort to tap home. With just minutes to go for the interval, Lalrindika came close again, but his effort lacked composure, and was hurriedly scuffed over the crossbar.
Into the second half, Fernandes made an early change as Lalrindika made way for Monirul Molla. Not long after, Johnson’s low-driven effort towards goal was caught comfortably by Air Force ’keeper Dinesh. The pressure eventually reaped rewards when substitute Molla received the ball in the box and turned his marker, before feeding it for Johnson, who made no mistake in smashing home past Dinesh from a tight angle to draw Bengaluru level.
Fernandes made more changes past the hour mark when Shreyas Ketkar and Ashish Jha were replaced by Lalremtluanga Fanai and Lalkpekhlua, in an effort to add impetus to the Blues’ search for a winner. Bengaluru made all the noise in the final moments as Robin Yadav’s header in the 89th minute was blocked by the IAF’s keeper.
Bengaluru next faces Kerala Blasters, in its penultimate Group C encounter, at the same venue, on August 18th.
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