John Johnson’s own goal was cancelled out by Daniel’s equalizer…
Chennai City managed a 1-1 draw with defending I-League champions Bengaluru Football Club at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday night.
Chennai gave away their lead for the second home game in succession as Daniel Lalhlimpuia levelled out John Johnson’s own goal.
Soundararajan made three changes to the team that started in the 1-1 draw with DSK Shivajians, with Abhishek Das and local players Michael Soosairaj and Raegan Albarnas replacing Joseph Clement, Haroon Amiri and Marcos Vinicus. The visitors, meanwhike, brought in Chennaiyin Football Club striker Lalhlimpuia and Mandar Rao Dessai in the places of Marjan Jugovic and Chekiyot Kizhakkaveettil Vineeth for the South Indian derby.
Bengaluru, donning pink to commemorate International Women’s Day, started on the front foot, peppering Karanjit Singh’s goal with shot after shot in the opening minutes. Mandar Rao had the first clear-cut chance of the game on four minutes when skipper Sunil Chhetri fed him near the 18-yard box only for him to miss the target by a few inches. A minute later, Sunil tried guiding Udanta Singh’s cross into the Chennai net in vain as Karanjit’s quick reflex enabled him to parry the ball; Karanjit’s poor clearance, however, looked weak, but Dhanpal Ganesh came to the rescue as he made a timely clearance, with Sunil and Daniel lurking.
Chennai hardly enjoyed possession in the first 45 minutes as they were forced to bank on counters. John Johnson and Juanan kept Charles de Souza and Raegan at bay. Chennai’s solitary first-half chance came in the 11th minute when Anyichie Echezona Celestine leaped above the opposition defence to launch a bullet header at the Bengaluru goal only for Arindam Bhattacharya to punch the ball away.
Bengaluru, unsurprisingly, enjoyed most of the ball in the first half but found undoing the Chennai defence an uphill task thanks to resolute defending from Echezona Celestine and Ravanan.
Highlights: Chennai City FC 1-1 Bengaluru FC
Despite Bengaluru’s dominance, Chennai grabbed the lead on 54 minutes thanks to Soosairaj’s industry. The Chennai-born attacker robbed Bengaluru of the ball near the halfway line before finding fellow Chennai player Ganesh, who, in turn, sprayed a pass down the right flank to him again. England defender Johnson succumbed to pressure from Charles as he headed Soosairaj’s cross into his own net. Bengaluru required just four minutes to find claw back into the game; Daniel collected a loose ball near thr six-yard box after Karanjit had had his fingertips to Chhetri’s cross to slot home the swift equaliser.
Albert Roca appeared to be unwilling to settle for a draw as he sent in three attacking players Jugovic, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and CK Vineeth to replace Cameron Watson, Daniel and Rao Dessai. Chennai, on the other hand, resorted to pragmatic changes as Clement replaced an injured Abhishek before uninfluential Raegan was withdrawn to introduce defensive midfielder Denson Devadas.
As is often the case in recent Chennai games, the players looked gassed in the final quarter hour, but occasional spikes in energy saw them depreive Bengaluru of the chance to build momentum. Soundararajan proceeded to bring in Liandala Sena as he took off exhausted Soosairaj on 87 minutes as he looked unwilling to throw away the point they had in their hands.
Bengaluru called for a penalty in the dying minutes, with Debabrata allegedly handling the ball inside the penalty area before the referee refused to award a goal moments later when every Bengaluru player and the travelling fans seemed convinced that the ball had gone in. Chhetri only received a yellow card for dissent as the referee refused to pay heed to the Bengaluru players’ suggestions.
Despite earning a point, Chennai remain rooted to the bottom of the table while Bengaluru’s position also remains unchanged — they sit fifth, two points behind Shillong Lajong.