Bengaluru and NorthEast United play out a 1-1 draw

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NorthEast United players celebrate after scoring an equalizer against Bengaluru

NorthEast United maintained their sixth spot in the points table by sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw against Bengaluru in the 2023-24 Indian Super League season at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Sunil Chhetri scored a penalty for the Blues before Aleksandar Jovanovic scored an own goal to restore parity for the home side. 

Bengaluru coach Simon Grayson made two changes to the back four with Shankar Sampingiraj and Naorem Roshan Sing getting a chance in the starting line-up ahead of Slavko Damjanovic and Jessel Carneiro. Javi Hernandez replaced Harsh Patre in the attacking midfield position for the side that played a 1-1 draw against Hyderabad.

NorthEast United coach Juan Pedro Benali made only two changes to the side that lost 0-1 to Odisha. Konsam Phalguni Singh and Ibson Melo were not a part of the starting line-up with Romain Philippoteaux and Gani Nigam taking their position in midfield.

The Highlanders got the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute when Philippoteaux curled a looping corner but Aleksandar Jovanovic headed the ball away. The rebound fell towards Asheer Akhtar whose shot from distance took a deflection from Keziah Veendorp before it wobbled away. 

The hosts got another sniff at goal in the 10th minute when Nestor Albiach squared a pass towards Parhib Gogoi at the right flank who curled a cross towards Philippoteaux in the far end of the pitch. The Frenchman found Nestor through on goal but Bengaluru goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu dived full stretch to parry the ball away. 

Bengaluru tried to capitalize on a counter-attack in the 22nd minute through Suresh Singh Wangjam. Despite having options in front of him, the Indian international decided to go solo but a lunging tackle from Michel Zabaco saved the day for Benali’s side. 

The Highlanders got a golden opportunity to take a lead in the 30th minute when Gani Nigam and Jithin Madathil Subran played a wonderful one-two pass to release the latter through on goal. However, the 25-year-old succumbed to the pressure and fluffed his lines as his shot rolled past the goal from a few yards.

Bengaluru won a penalty in the 34th minute that changed the course of the game. Halicharan Narzary made a looping cross towards the middle and Javi Hernandez chased the ball but NorthEast United goalkeeper Mirshad Michu came out of his line needlessly to make a meal of his tackle. The referee pointed towards the spot and handed Michu a yellow card as well. 

Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri stepped up to take the penalty and blasted the ball towards the top corner as Michu leapt correctly to his right but failed to get a hand to it. 

Just when it seemed that NorthEast United would go into the break with one goal down, Jovanovic scored an own goal. Mohammed Ali Bemammer released Jithin on the right flank and the latter swung a cross towards the middle where Jovanovic failed to clear it properly and his deflection left Gurpreet wrong-footed as the ball bulged in the back of the net. 

The Highlanders could have taken the lead in the 60th minute of the game when Gurpreet spilt a simple collection. Parthib collected the ball and passed it towards Nestor who made a pass towards Gani Nigam at the edge of the box but his shot from a distance sailed over the crossbar.

One minute later, it was Bengaluru who looked threatening to surge ahead. Hernandez crossed the ball from the right flank and substitute Curtis Main leapt over Asheer to keep his header downwards. However, Michu positioned himself perfectly to deny the goal. 

The home side broke free on the counter quickly with Roshan heading the ball straight to the path of Philippoteaux from Parthib’s cross. However, the Frenchman fell rather cheaply aiming to win a penalty but the referee denied the spot kick. 

In the 74th minute, Asheer made a sloppy pass towards Chhetri and the latter crossed the ball aiming for Curtis Main but Zabaco cleared the lines as the Highlanders averted another danger. 

Substitutes Sivasakthi Narayanan and Robin Yadav combined nicely to set up an attacking move in the 81st minute after the latter controlled a pass from the former but Michu stooped low to collect the final shot.

NorthEast United’s Nestor Albiach in action against Bengaluru 

In the 85th minute, Nestor dropped to the left flank and made a low cross towards the centre. Jovanovic got a foot to it but Pragyan pounced on the rebound and took a shot from distance. Gurpreet dived to his left to save the shot and keep the scoreline level.

In the 89th minute, Sivasakthi did well to dribble past Redeem Tlang and Tondonba Singh and took a shot from inside the box but Michu parried it behind for a corner. Veendorp took the resultant corner kick and floated the ball towards Hernandez at the edge of the box and the Spaniard came up with an acrobatic effort to reach the ball and pass it towards Robin whose shot took a deflection off Redeem and the ball fizzled out of play. 

None of the sides were able to capitalize on the five minutes of additional time as Bengaluru and NorthEast United played out a 1-1 draw.

The Blues will return to the capital city of Karnataka as they host Punjab on Thursday while the Highlanders will now travel to Kolkata to face East Bengal on Monday.