Salam Johnson Strikes On Debut As Bibiano Fernandes’ Boys Begin Durand Cup Campaign With 1-1 Draw
Kolkata: Bengaluru FC played out a 1-1 draw against Indian Air Force FT in their opening match of the 2023 Durand Cup, at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan, in Santoshpur, on Monday. Vivek Kumar’s opener in the first half was cancelled out by a strike from summer signing Salam Johnson Singh, as Bibiano Fernandes’ side began their campaign with a point.
Bengaluru named three first-team players in their starting eleven, with Parag Shrivas, Shankar Sampingiraj and Salam Johnson Singh among those given the nod. Indian Air Force, meanwhile, started with experienced striker Zico Sanga in attack, with Mohd Aqib and Mandeep Singh on the flanks.
A cagey affair ensued and it was the Blue Colts who had the first effort of the game when Edmund Lalrindika, played through by Parag, managed to dribble past his marker and get his shot away, but his effort was inches wide of the mark. However, it was the visiting Air Force side that opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Shrivas’ effort to control the ball saw the centre-back lose his footing, allowing Vivek Kumar to slot home past Sahil Poonia, who was caught out of position.
The Blue Colts pushed forward and came close to an equaliser in the 38th minute when Thokchom, with power, whipped in Edmund’s precise through ball. However, Salam Johnson Singh, who managed to get to the end of the cross, couldn’t get enough purchase on his effort to tap home. Just before the half-time mark, Lalrindika came close again, but his effort lacked composure, and was hurriedly scuffed over the crossbar.
Into the second half, Fernandes made an early change as Lalrindika made way for Monirul Molla. Not long after, Johnson’s low-driven effort towards goal was caught comfortably by Air Force ’keeper Dinesh. The pressure eventually reaped rewards when substitute Molla received the ball in the box and turned his marker, before feeding it to Johnson, who made no mistake in smashing home past Dinesh to draw the Blue Colts level.
Fernandes made more changes past the hour mark when Shreyas Ketkar and Ashish Jha were replaced by Lalremtluanga Fanai and Lalkpekhlua, in an effort to add impetus to the Blue Colts’ search for a winner. Bengaluru made all the noise in the final moments as Robin Yadav’s header in the 89th minute was blocked by the IAF ’keeper.
In a final roll of the dice, Fernandes sent Satendra Singh Yadav on for Johnson in the dying embers as the Blue Colts continued their search for a late winner, albeit to no avail. The referee drew a close to proceedings, giving the young Bengaluru FC side a well-earned point against a physical Indian Air Force team.
The Blue Colts face Kerala Blasters next, in their penultimate Group C encounter, at the same venue, on August 18th.