Mohammedan Sporting (MDSP) finished on top of Group A in the 131stIndianOil Durand Cup, courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Bengaluru FC (BFC), at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) here in the city. Pritam Singh got an early lead for Mohammedan Sporting in the first half, which was neutralized by Siva Sakthi in added time of the second. Both teams had already qualified for the knockout stages and the result meant that Mohammedan Sporting would face the Kerala Blasters in their quarter-finals while Bengaluru FC will go up against Odisha FC in theirs.
The teams were up for it as they began positively, both in attack and in defense. The Blues got the first real chance to score in the 12th minute of the game, when a Jovanovic header on the rebound, after Javi’s free-kick was punched out by Zothanmawia, just missed its mark to graze the roof of the net.
A minute later, Mohammedan Sporting got the opener. It was the culmination of a wonderful team move down the left flank, from the space left open by a constantly overlapping Prabir Das. Faslu started it with his run finding Abhash Thapa in space to his left. The midfielder raced in and cut it back in for Sk. Faisal comes rushing in and takes the first stab at it with his left foot. Pritam Singh was first to pounce on the rebound off Bengaluru FC keeper Lara and slotted home from close.
Bengaluru FC were stung by the reverse and reacted with fervor, but Mohammedan Sporting were playing to a plan and the attacks from the left led by the likes of Abhishek Ambekar, Faslu, Abhash Thapa, and Abhishek Halder, we’re keeping the Bengaluru FC team honest. The first booking of the game came in the 27th minute when Zuidika went into the books for a rough tackle. It was going to be the first of many.
Mohammedan Sporting finished the half holding on to their one-goal lead and were also the better side in the first 45-minutes. Bengaluru FC coach Grayson brought on Leon Augustine at the break in place of Javi. That brought the pace in attack and on the left wing.
Prabir in the 47th minute, caught hold of a loose ball with a fabulous right-footer from about 30 yards out and Mawia was forced to bring up another good save to deny him. The Mohammedan Sporting keeper had a brilliant game. Grayson kept getting on the younger and fresher legs bringing in Parag and Rohit at the hour mark in place of Sandesh Jhingan and Jayesh Rane.
In the 69th minute, Sunil Chhetri got a great chance to equalize but Zothanmawia yet again brought off a stellar save to deny the talisman. The game then changed dramatically when Abhishek Halder was sent off in the 72nd minute for a second bookable offense. Mohammedan Sporting was down to 10 men and Bengaluru FC began the charge.
Siva Sakthi, who also made his way into the game in the second half, first got a layoff from Jovanovic close to goal but behind a crowd of bodies. He is a two-minded tap-in hit the side-netting. But he got his goal in the end in the first minute of added time. Yet another Grayson sub-Namgyal Bhutia had been sending in wonderful crosses from the right flank since coming on. This time he floated in a corner from that flank and the tall Jovanovic headed in down onto the edge of the box from the far post.
Prabir Halder was first to react, striking a right-footer that struck Leon Augustine away from the path of goal and deflected inwards in front of Siva Sakthi. The Bengaluru FC striker’s shot on the turn thundered the crossbar and fell inside the goal before coming back. Besides Abhishek Halder, there were two more expulsions in the game, that of the Mohammedan Sporting coaching and support staff in the form of Sandip Nandy (90+4) and Andrew Beasly (90+4).
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