Pune FC force draw with Bengaluru FC

Pune FC force draw with Bengaluru FC

Pune FC force draw with Bengaluru FC

Pune FC showcased their bench-strength as substitute Anthony D'Souza struck a 73rd minute equaliser and  the visitors forced a 1-1 draw with I-Leaders Bengaluru FC here Friday.

Bengaluru, who led by a 25th minute goal from Thoi Singh, yielded ground in the second-half when Pune took the upper hand to rattle the home team with the equaliser and had good chances to even pull off a victory. The draw took Bengaluru's tally to 38 while Pune inched up to 31 in third spot, just behind Salgaocar FC who are on 34.

Playing their last home game of the season, Bengaluru were eager to conclude on a high but had themselves to blame for squandering an early lead with a shaky second-half display. Pune can take credit for keeping their nerves after being down by a goal and eventually splitting points.

It was a Sean Rooney run down the right flank that set up the first goal for Bengaluru as he swept past Zohmingliana Ralte before crossing into the box for an unmarked Sunil Chhetri. The skipper's attempt came off the post but Thoi was on hand to put the ball into the net.

Barring the goal, much of the first half saw both teams playing some probing football with neither having a clear look at the rival net. There were flashes of physical play, but fortunately wiser counsel prevailed.

The visitors showed some urgency at the restart but once the teams settled down, the 8,000-plus crowd was treated to some exciting football as the rivals came close to scoring. Pune forced a couple of corners but Bengaluru defended well and it was much the same at the other end where the visiting defenders did a good job of keeping the ball out of harm's way.Bengaluru had a great chance to increase the lead but Chhetri, after trapping a lob from Rooney, failed to beat the goalkeeper just a couple of yards from the line.

Shrugging off the close shave, Pune kept chipping away at the Bengaluru defence and their persistence eventually paid off when D'Souza, who had come off the bench in the 57th minute, was left unmarked inside the small box to head home a cross from Othallo Tabia.

Encouraged by the success, Pune stepped up the pace and should have slotted home at least two more goals but, first, Ghanaian import Mustafa Riga was just wide off the target and then substitute Thongkhosiem Haokip did the same.

Bengaluru seemed rattled by the Pune upsurge and the home defenders struggled to scramble the ball away from the penalty area. Riga had another attempt but Johnson cleared in the nick of time to keep Bengaluru afloat.

Bengaluru had another great opportunity to score in the 84th minute but John Menyongar failed to convert a rebound after goalkeeper Anup Debnath had parried a shot by Chhetri.