The Highlanders and the Blues fight it out to a 1-1 draw

Harmanjot Khabra-Bengaluru FC

NorthEast United FC and Bengaluru FC shared the spoils from the 1-1 draw in the 56th match of the Hero Indian Super League. Thanks to Rahul Bheke‘s equaliser resulting from a horrendous goalkeeping error by Gurmeet Singh, the Blues managed to earn a point today at the Tilak Maidan, Goa.

After their initial success, both NorthEast United FC and Bengaluru FC lost their form and found themselves set in the middle of the points table. As it is now about halfway through the tournament, both the teams needed to pull themselves up after being winless for quite some time now. 

The Blues looked a little unsettled due to the change in their coaching staff midway through the tournament. The interim manager Naushad Moosa made 3 changes in his starting squad that lost to SC East Bengal in their last outing. 

The Highlanders made a couple of changes in their lineup as well. However, they were forced to replace Lalrempuia as he picked up an injury during warmup and was replaced by Lalengmawia.

The match started pretty slow as both teams looked unsettled and neither were able to penetrate much into their attacking thirds. The first movement began in the 16th minute as the Blues captain Sunil Chhetri sent the ball to Kristian Opseth who tried to shoot the ball into the goal. The NorthEast United FC defender Dylan Fox made no mistake in parrying the ball away for a corner. He was brought into the playing XI today replacing Mashoor Shareef in central defence and was already making his presence felt.

Chhetri again floated a cross in from the left flank inside the box for Cleiton Silva but it was too high for him. A couple of minutes later, Kristian Opseth received a floater from Rahul Bheke inside the box but his header went straight to Gurmeet Singh as he made a good low save. The Blues were on the charge. 

The first goal came from the Highlanders though, by Luis Machado. Federico Gallego won a loose ball in the midfield and made a run towards the goal. He sent a pass for Luis Machado within the box who expertly found the net. The deadlock was finally broken 27 minutes into the game.

Bengaluru FC had their chance though soon after as Parag Shrivas‘s perfect cross from the left flank couldn’t find the head of Cleiton Silva, and went off as a missed opportunity. They kept finding an equaliser for the rest of the first half but in vain. 

The equaliser was finally found soon after half time. Rahul Bheke scored off of what could be described as a howler from the keeper Gurmeet Singh. Bheke went past his marker on the right flank and took a shot which on any other day was a very routine save for Gurmeet but today it just went into the goal. 

The match then went back and forth but neither team could not make a genuine attempt at scoring until the 73rd minute as Federico Gallego took a free-kick from a dangerous position and went directly for goal. But Gurpreet Singh Sandhu dove to his left and made a stunning save to deny it and that was it. The half saw 5 minutes of extra time being added but neither team could break the deadlock.

Hero of the Match – Lalengmawia

The Club Award was shared as the match was drawn but the Hero of the Match was awarded to Lalengmawia for his beautiful play in the midfield and the DHL Winning Pass of the Match was awarded to Federico Gallego.

Both teams would want to win their next match as Northeast United FC take on Jamshedpur FC on January 17 and Bengaluru FC take on Kerala Blasters FC on January 20.

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