CHENNAI: Chennaiyin FC split the points with Bengaluru FC after a thrilling 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League 2022-23 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.
In the first match at the ‘Marina Arena’ in more than two-and-a-half years, Bengaluru nosed ahead via Roy Krishna just four minutes after kick-off. However, Chennaiyin levelled on the cusp of half-time, courtesy of a fine finish from K Prasanth. The home team was a man down following goalkeeper Debjit Majumder’s 82nd-minute red card, but ensured the southern rivals shared the spoils at the end of a riveting contest.
Bengaluru silenced the home crowd even before the Chennaiyin players settled into the match as Krishna did what he usually does. In the fourth minute, Suresh Wangjam found N Sivasakthi on the right flank and the latter came up with a Kevin De Bruyne-esque outside of the foot delivery into the box. His cracking pass landed on the head of an unmarked Krishna, who diverted it into the far corner.
After going behind, CFC stepped on the gas and had four clear-cut opportunities before it eventually drew parity. In the 15th minute, right-back Ajith Kumar laid the ball off to Prasanth, only for the winger to hit it straight at BFC custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with a left-footed effort. About five minutes later, central defender Fallou Diagne’s headed connection off a Narayan Das corner-kick went wide by a whisker.
Then, target man Petar Sliskovic was denied twice – once each by the woodwork and Gurpreet. The Croatian forward rattled the bar in the 25th minute after being fed by Prasanth, who went on a mazy run into the area. Close to the end of the first period, Gurpreet’s stunning reflex save prevented Sliskovic’s header from going in.
However, Chennaiyin would not be denied at the stroke of half-time. Sliskovic, with his body facing the goal, produced a defence-splitting assist for Prasanth and the wideman slotted the ball into the bottom left corner with a cool finish. Since Prasanth cancelled out Krishna’s early strike, nothing separated the teams when they headed in for the breather.
About eight minutes into the second half, Sliskovic got on the end of a delicious cross from Jiteshwor Singh, but Gurpreet made a save with his right hand after a headed shot from the forward. In the 82nd minute, CFC was reduced to 10 men as Debjit was shown the marching orders after he handled the ball outside the 18-yard box.
In what was a rare occurrence, an outfield player – centre-back Vafa Hakhamaneshi in this case – replaced the man between the sticks as Chennaiyin had used up the maximum three windows for making substitutions. After all, it was not for nothing that head coach Thomas Brdaric once jokingly asked Vafa, “You are a goalkeeper, right?”
Substitute Kwame Karikari had a chance to snatch three points in injury time, but blazed his effort over the bar. Despite the disadvantage in numbers in the dying moments, the CFC defence held firm to secure a point.
RESULT: Chennaiyin FC 1 (K Prasanth 45) drew with Bengaluru FC 1 (R Krishna 4)