Honours even as Bengaluru, Chennaiyin draw blanks

Cuadrat’s Blues Lose Crucial Ground In Race For Pole Position With 0-0 Draw In Chennai

Chennai: Bengaluru suffered a stutter to their hopes of finishing atop the Indian Super League charts following a goalless draw against Chennaiyin FC at the JN Stadium, in Chennai, on Sunday. The stalemate left Cuadrat’s Blues with 29 points, four adrift of first place, now occupied by ATK and FC Goa.

With a fixture-heavy February where the Blues could play as many as eight games in mind, Carles Cuadrat chose to start Sunil Chhetri on the bench, and had Ashique Kuruniyan manning the wing on the left in a four-man midfield. The Blues had a few names who didn’t make the trip in Raphael Augusto, Rino Anto, Eugeneson Lyngdoh (injuries) and Harmanjot Khabra (suspension). Chennaiyin, meanwhile, had the one miss in suspended midfielder Anirudh Thapa as Owen Coyle chose to start with Thoi Singh.

In a first half without much to write about, Bengaluru kept things in control with ample possession and moved the ball around comfortably. The Blues were quick to press and retrieve whenever Chennaiyin looked like stitching a move, with young midfielder Suresh Wangjam doing exceptionally well in the role.

Bengaluru had a big chance snuffed out by Lucian Goian in the 18th minute when Kuruniyan got past Eli Sabia and sent in a cross for a waiting Deshorn Brown, only for the Chennaiyin captain to put it out for a corner with a sliding intervention.

In his first change on the night, Cuadrat replaced Brown with Nili Perdomo and the Spaniard didn’t waste time in making his presence felt. A little beyond the hour-mark, Perdomo set Udanta up with a cheeky back-heel in the Chennaiyin box but the winger’s foot gave way and Chennaiyin found a reprieve.

With a little less than ten minutes on the clock, the game came to life with both teams missing massive chances to grab the lead. The first of the opportunities fell to the hosts when Crivellaro found substitute Andre Schembri in space inside the box. The Maltese striker managed to clip his effort over Gurpreet, but Rahul Bheke cleared off the line to keep the scores unchanged.

Moments later, a clearance from the back allowed substitute Semboi Haokip to run free at Vishal Kaith’s goal. The striker, who made inroads before taking a shot, saw his effort come back into play off the upright and cleared away. With three minutes left to play in regulation time, Chennaiyin were reduced to ten men when Thoi Singh was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The Blues return to Bengaluru where they will face Bhutan’s Paro FC in the second leg of the Preliminary Stage Two AFC Cup clash on Wednesday, February 12th, before returning to League duties with an away clash against Kerala Blasters on Saturday, February 15th.