Rain dampens BFC spirits

BFC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (left) makes a save during their ISL clash against NorthEast United FC on Monday. ISL

In the pouring rain that lashed the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru FC started their defence of the Indian Super League with a goalless draw against NorthEast United FC here on Monday.

There was little to separate the two teams as both attacking lines failed to fire. There were close moments but lacking the killer ball and final flourish, both teams failed to break ice. 

Missing midfielder Erik Paartalu and defender Albert Serran with injuries, BFC coach Carles Cuadrat sprung a few surprises in the line-up, most notably starting Ashqiue Kuruniyan at left-back and switching Nishu Kumar to the right. New singings Rafael Augusto and Manuel Onwu also found places in the attack. The former showed flashes of his quality but Onwu looked out of sorts.

The defending champions asked the early questions with Udanta Singh threatening early on and Ashique, bursting in from the left, sending a shot flashing across the face of goal. 

The home side's formation, while lop-sided, did stop NorthEast from getting control of the game in the first half with Martin Garcia's effort from distance testing Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal, their only notable chance in the first 20 minutes.

Udanta then had a golden chance to put BFC ahead but the winger, after being sent in behind the defence following a purposeful run from Augusto, failed to find the target from less than 10 yards.

The major worry for BFC was of their own making as Rahul Bheke's attempted header to the goalkeeper presented Garcia with a glorious chance but the Uruguayan, with the goal gaping, could only slash wide.

However, the change of ends saw NorthEast gain more control.

With Ashique a major threat going forward with his runs from the deep, BFC looked more susceptible to counter attacks although whenever asked to defend, the Indian attacker more than held his own.

Asamoah Gyan, the big-name signing in the league this season, was kept largely quiet. However, he did find a place in the highlight reels, especially when he shrugged off three BFC defenders and sent Garcia through and had a goal ruled offside in the first half. 

In the second half, after having rarely found himself with the ball in danger area, the Ghanaian - in space after the visitors counter-attacked - rattled the bar with a curler. That was the last major action from NEUFC.

The hosts were restricted to attacking through the wings with almost no attacks centrally and had Sunil Chhetri crowded out for the most part. However, they had one more opportunity but Nishu’s thunderous shot found an impressive match in a flying Subhashish Roy Chowdhury just after the hour mark. Both teams huffed and puffed for the last half hour but failed to change the scoreline.

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