Roca’s Men Held By Popovic’s Stallions In Tight Clash At Balewadi
Pune: Bengaluru FC were held to a second consecutive draw by FC Pune City after the first-leg of the Indian Super League semifinal between the two sides ended goalless at the Balewadi Stadium, in Pune, on Wednesday. The result leaves the tie wide open with the return leg at the Fortress giving both sides a chance to make it to the grand final later next week.
Playing the first semifinal of the competition three days ahead of the other one between FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC, both Pune and Bengaluru chose to tread with caution, with very fine margins for error given how much was at stake.
Roca chose to start Miku as a lone striker in a starting eleven that included Boithang Haokip and Toni Dovale ahead of Udanta Singh and Erik Paartalu. The defence, which had taken the makeshift route in the game against Kerala Blasters, turned back to a familiar look with John Johnson and Juanan Gonzalez returning from suspensions.
The best and probably only chance of the first half fell to Bengaluru when Miku was hauled down by Gurtej Singh to earn a free kick. But it took a strong palm from Vishal Kaith to keep Sunil Chhetri’s firmly hit attempt down the middle, out.
Bengaluru had an even better chance five minutes into the second half when a smart variation from a corner only needed Juanan to nod home with Kaith beaten. The Spaniard however, planted his header inches wide from Boithang’s set up.
Sensing the need to add some muscle and strength to the way Bengaluru were going about things, Roca introduced Paartalu and Udanta in a space of ten minutes. The Blues began forcing corners out of Pune who were stubborn while defending them. They had a chance of their own in the 75th minute but substitute Issac Vanmalsawma made a hash of an attempt to tap in a cross from Marcelinho.
In the final quarter, a few half chances fell for either side, but none could capitalize and make them count as the game ended goalless. The Blues will now host the Stallions in a winner-takes-all clash at the Fortress on Sunday.