I-league: Minerva Punjab FC holds Bengaluru FC

A power-packed Bengaluru FC (BFC) was expected to cruise past newcomers Minerva Punjab FC in their I-League fixture here on Saturday. A lion-hearted show from the visitor, however, saw the match end in a 1-1 draw.

Sunil Chettri found the net for Bengaluru FC but it wasn't enough to get the three points.   -  Sreenivasa Murthy

A power-packed Bengaluru FC (BFC) was expected to cruise past newcomers Minerva Punjab FC in their I-League fixture here on Saturday. A lion-hearted show from the visitor, however, saw the match end in a 1-1 draw. BFC is now without a win in four league engagements, and this result did little to elevate the side from mid-table status.

After a well-crafted goal from Sunil Chhetri gave BFC the lead in the 54th minute, the defending champion looked set to grab all three points on offer. The game - a staid affair thus far - began to open up, and it was the home side which looked more dangerous.

A stunning phase of play late in the match shocked the 7,000-odd crowd into silence. A shot from Minerva defender Kamalpreet Singh took a deflection off Sandesh Jhingan, and the ball evaded custodian Amrinder Singh to slide into the net. The BFC unit - visibly gutted - went on to create several chances in the dying minutes, but failed to convert. The jubilant Minerva players celebrated after the final whistle - it was a job well done by the underdogs.

Earlier, BFC skipper Chhetri applied the finishing touches to a terrific move. Udanta Singh’s deft footwork allowed to get past his marker on the flank. The impressive Udanta charged forward and floated a teasing cross towards C.K. Vineeth. The Kerala striker failed to make good contact, but the ball rolled towards Chhetri just outside the box. The India international unleashed a right-footed shot on the bounce, and left the goalkeeper with no chance.

A pleased Minerva coach Surinder Singh stated, “We defended superbly today. To take one point, that too away from home, is a huge boost for us. We were up against one of the best teams in India and Asia.”

His opposite number, Albert Roca, said, “We are very disappointed. It is too early to comment on our chances of winning the title. We have to get better and recover quickly.”

The result:

BFC 1 (Sunil Chhetri 54’) drew with Minerva Punjab FC 1 (Sandesh Jhingan-og 79').

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