Goa rallies from behind to hold Bengaluru 2-2 in an entertaining fixture

Sunil Chhetri once again found his name on the scoresheet

A young Goa side staged a brilliant second-half comeback to force a 2-2 draw against ISL side Bengaluru in Group A of the 2022 Durand Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Despite the draw, the defending champions Goa find themselves ousted from the group stages of the tournament as Bengaluru advances to the quarter-finals. 

Bengaluru made as many as seven changes to the side that beat Indian Air Force 4-0 as only Sunil Chhetri, Bruno Ramires, Namgyal Bhutia, and Rohit Kumar retained their positions. Amrit Gope guarded the sticks while Parag Srivas, Alan Costa, Hira Mondal, and Namgyal Bhutia formed the back four. Danish Farooq, Bruno Ramires, Rohit Kumar, and Udanta Singh played in the midfield while Prince Ibara and Sunil Chhetri led from the front. 

Goa, too, made four changes to the starting line-up that lost to Jamshedpur narrowly by a margin of 0-1. Hrithik Tiwari started from under the bar while Salman Faris, Mallikjan Kalegar, Lesly Rebello, Deeshank Kunkalikar, and Rayan Roger Menezes put their best foot forward in defense. Lalremruata HP, Rayan Menezes, and Mevan Dias tried to stitch balls through the midfield while Delton Colaco and Phrangki Buam played as the strikers. 

The first shot of the game was taken by Goa’s Phrangki Buam, who unleashed a fierce shot from outside the box in the 15th minute, but his effort was way off target. After the Gaurs fouled Rohit Kumar at the edge of the box, Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri stepped up to curl the free-kick into the net in the 24th minute. 

Two minutes later, Bruno Ramires swung a floating cross towards Udanta Singh at the far end, who volleyed the ball into the path of an onrushing Sivasakthi Narayanan. The substitute made no mistake in poking the ball past the goal-line despite Goa defenders crying for a possible offside. Sivasakthi tried to be the provider in the 31st minute when he laid the ball off for Danish Farooq but the former Real Kashmir player skied his effort from the box.

Sivasakthi was brought down at the edge of the box in the 33rd minute but Chhetri’s effort from a free-kick narrowly missed the top corner this time. Bengaluru went into the break with a 2-0 lead but Goa hadn’t lost hope yet. 

The Blues continued piling pressure in the second half when Namgyal Bhutia floated in a cross from his own half into the box in the 49th minute which was connected by skipper Chhetri. The headed pass was weighted perfectly for Sivasakthi but the youngster failed to nod the ball into the net. 

Just when it seemed Bengaluru would score another goal, Phrangki Buam capitalized on a misplaced pass from Rohit Kumar to round off the keeper and slam home the ball in the 53rd minute. Rohit got an opportunity to redeem himself one minute later but his effort was palmed away by Goa’s custodian. 

Substitute Vasim Inamdar pounced on a loose ball in the opposition third and played it towards captain Lesly Rebello, who made no mistake in sneaking it between the feet of the Bengaluru keeper to level the scoreline for Goa in the 64th minute. 

The Simon Grayson-coached unit continued to maraud forward but lacked the finishing touch after skipper Chhetri was taken off the field. The full-time scoreline read 2-2 as Bengaluru lost two points from a game where they should have taken all three. 

Goa finished their 2022 Durand Cup campaign with four points from four matches, which included a win over Indian Air Force. They currently occupy the third spot but can slip a place down further if Jamshedpur wins or plays out a draw against Indian Air Force on Thursday.  

Bengaluru, on the other hand, remains unbeaten in the tournament with 7 points from 3 matches. They square off against Mohammedan for the top spot of Group A on Friday.