Bengaluru FC was left ruing a host of missed chances as NorthEast United FC held the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) champion to 2-2 draw at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday.
Substitute Udanta Singh ended a barren 20-match goalless run dating back to last year to give BFC what seemed like a decisive lead in the 70th minute only for Luis Machado to score his second of the night eight minutes later and save his side the blushes.
The NorthEast players had their hearts in their mouths five minutes from time when Sunil Chhetri lined up for a free-kick just outside the penalty area. But they heaved a sigh of relief when the shot sailed over.
The result ensured that both sides maintained their unbeaten runs but NorthEast will clearly be the happier of the two. It took the lead as early as the fourth minute when Rochharzela’s left-footed curler went in after taking a wicked deflection off Machado, who had started the move in the first place with his fleet-footed brilliance in the centre of the park.
BFC’s 13th minute equaliser from Juanan was scrappy. Centre-back Dylan Fox couldn’t clear Rahul Bheke’s long throw-in and the Spaniard’s fierce shot from close went in off goalie Gurmeet.
From then, until Udanta’s goal, BFC came close multiple times. Ashique Kuruniyan’s fine shot at the end of a mazy run was saved by Gurmeet. On 25 minutes, an excellent cut-back from the left flank found Harmanjot Khabra unmarked on the edge of the area, but he took one touch too many and didn’t even hit the target. Substitute Kristian Opseth was denied in the second half by a fine reaction save by Gurmeet.
NorthEast’s best opportunity was immediately after the break but Gurpreet Sandhu came up with a remarkable full-stretch save to parry away a Kwesi Appiah header.
The India custodian’s best efforts were complemented soon when Udanta scored following a defensive error. Fox allowed a header from Chhetri run across the goal unaware of Udanta’s presence behind and duly paid the price.
All through this, Machado kept up his intelligent play feeding multiple balls for his teammates. He finally took matters into his own hands, latching on to Idrissa Sylla’s flick on, beating Juanan for pace before slotting it home to vault NorthEast into second spot (nine points) above ATK Mohun Bagan.