BENGALURU: Defending champions Bengaluru FC aimed at a winning start at home. Yet a resilient NorthEast United FC defence and incessant rain did no favours as the game ended in a 0-0 draw at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Monday.
In an unusual move, Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat started his new winger Ashique Kuruniyan as a left-wing-back while regular left-back Nishu Kumar was pushed on to the right with Albert Serran missing with a niggle. With Juanan Gonzalez and Rahul Bheke as the centre-backs and Harmanjot Khabra as the holding midfielder, new man Raphael Augusto debuted for Bengaluru in a 4-3-3 formation.
Despite Kuruniyan and Nishu playing out of position and Erik Paartalu missing out with an ankle injury, Bengaluru started on a bright note, retaining the lion’s share of possession while pushing forward in numbers. Kuruniyan’s pace helped the attack while Augusto impressed with his passing. But all of that didn’t help Bengaluru’s cause. Poor finishing and Subhasish Roy Chowdhury’s fine saves made it harder for them.
Despite all the attacking moves, it took 16 minutes for the hosts to take the first shot. Kuruniyan made a fine run on the left wing, beating two defenders but his adventurous run didn’t result in a goal as he shot wide.
The best chance of the first-half probably was one that Udanta squandered in the 26th minute. Augusto’s fine through ball met Udanta who had only Chowdhury to beat. But the Manipuri winger’s shot was just wide off target.
NorthEast weren’t at their best, attacking-wise. They, more often than not, had to run behind Bengaluru players for the ball and made backward runs to defend. However, that changed in the second half with the visitors showing more purpose in the attack.
Their intent almost resulted in a goal six minutes into the second. NorthEast’s star forward Asamoah Gyan was played a fine lob pass by Uruguayan Martin Chaves. Gyan curled it towards Bengaluru goal only to hit the crossbar.
Unlike the visitors, Bengaluru weren’t a threat in the second. Chhetri & Co failed to create as many chances with heavy rain disrupting the flow of play. However, Nishu almost managed to break the deadlock in the 64th minute when he took a shot from outside the box. But Chowdhury made another fantastic save to deny the youngster.
While the result was disappointing for Bengaluru, Cuadrat would question his forwards. Chhetri, apart from his 42nd-minute shot which was blocked by Kai Kerrings, was anonymous. Onwu didn’t look like the man Cuadrat wanted to replace Miku with and Udanta once again came short with his poor decision making. When they travel to Goa on October 28, Bengaluru will need to address the shortcomings.