Sudeva Delhi and Kerala Blasters played out a 1-1 draw in their opening Group D encounter in the Durand Cup football tournament at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday.
Muhammad Ajsal put Blasters in the lead in the 42nd minute, while Mangku Kuki scored the equaliser three minutes later.
Displaying strong man-to-man marking, Sudeva maintained a good structure as its midfield showed control and its defence worked hard to deny the Blasters forwards for most part of the opening half.
The quick-footed Sudeva players created several chances but could not make the most of those due to weak finishing.
The closest one came from Karthik Panicker, who could not beat Blasters keeper Sachin Suresh from close range in the eighth minute.
Blasters valued possession and created opportunities by employing the aerial balls and through passes.
One such move fetched it the lead against the run of the play. Gourav Kankonkar sent a through ball and Ajsal controlled it with his left foot and struck it with his right on the run from just outside the box to beat Sudeva ‘keeper Kabir Kohli.
Blasters' happiness was short-lived as Mangku Kuki utilised Basit Bhat's accurate throw-in from the right.
Kuki made space to get into the box before lobbing it over Sachin to draw parity before the half-time.
Tiring legs and umpteen cramps slowed down the pace considerably in the second half as the two sides shared the spoils.
In the other game, the first one of the day, defending champion FC Goa beat India Air Force by a solitary goal to pick up its first win of the tournament at Kishore Bharati Stadium.
Muhammed Nemil got the only goal of the match for Goa, which preserved the early lead as the Airmen failed to find the target.
Having lost the first match against Mohammedan Sporting, the win kept Goa in the hunt for a quarterfinal berth.