Chennai, March 8 (IANS) Defending champions Bengaluru FC had to settle for their fifth draw of the season as they were held by top division newcomers Chennai City FC 1-1 in an I-League tie here on Wednesday.
Chennai took the lead when John Johnson (53rd minute) scored an own goal but Daniel Lalhlimpuia (58th) saved the defending champions the blushes by restoring parity.
Bengaluru had Chennai on the ropes from the start when Mandar Rao Desai saw his header from a cross kept out by Karanjit Singh in the fourth minute.
Daniel then had a shot on target kept out by Chennai goalkeeper Celesitine Echezona as the visitors attacked from all over the pitch. Bengaluru striker Sunil Chhetri too saw an attempt on goal from an Udanta cutback saved.
But despite all of Bengaluru’s authority on the game, it was Chennai who found themselves in the lead when Johnson headed a seemingly harmless cross from Nandhakumar on the right and watched in horror as it flew past goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya and into the net.
A quick response was what Bengaluru needed and they found one within five minutes of conceding. Sent on a chase he went down the right, Udanta’s cross was pushed away by Chennai custodian Karanjit Singh. But the ball fell at Daniel’s feet and the striker calmly shot home the equaliser.
Sensing the need to build on the momentum, Bengaluru coach Albert Roca brought on striker Marjan Jugovic for Mandar Rao Dessai as the visitors relentlessly pressed for a second goal. They came agonisingly close in the 63rd minute when Juanan saw a header from a corner saved off the line by Chennai City defender Debabrata Roy.
Nishu Kumar then saw two delightful low crosses roll across the face of the goal with no Bengaluru player close enough to get a foot on them. Looking to shake things up a little, Roca made his final two changes in quick succession, replacing Cameron Watson and Daniel with Eugeneson Lyngdoh and C.K. Vineeth.
Bengaluru then had a shout for handball turned down deep into injury time but their best chance of the half came when Lyngdoh’s looped free-kick into the area was nodded into a dangerous area for Dharmaraj Ravanan to clear off the line in what was to be the last action of the night.