Margao, March 6: Bengaluru FC came back from two goals down, but couldn’t do enough to eke out a win as a 10–man Sporting Clube de Goa held on for a 2–2 draw in their I–League clash at the Fatorda Stadium here on Sunday.
Marcus Mascarenhas (19th minute) put the hosts in front before Odafa Okolie (38th) doubled their advantage. But Bengaluru skipper Sunil Chhetri (42nd, 67th) struck once in each half to rescue a point for his team.
Bengaluru are now at the joint top spot on the nine–team league table along with defending champions Mohun Bagan. Both teams are on 22 points, but Bengaluru have played 11 matches, one more than Mohun Bagan.
Bengaluru were dealt an early blow after defender Curtis Osano had to be replaced by Keegan Pereira after the former pulled his groin just 15 minutes into the game. The hosts took the lead with a freak goal minutes later after Lalthuammawia Ralte’s clearance from a Lalchhuanmawia back–pass rebounded off an onrushing Mascarenhas and bounced into the Bengaluru goal.
The Blues tried their best to reduce the deficit, with some nice work in midfield allowing Udanta Singh and Chhetri to attack the flanks. Bengaluru striker Kim Song Yong came close to finding the equaliser, but a cross into the box from Udanta was inches away from the diving North Korean.
Sporting extended their lead against the run of play thanks to a long–range shot from Odafa. The Nigerian striker collected a pass from Mahmoud Al–Am before taking a shot that found its way past a diving Lalthuammawia Ralte in the visitors’ goal.
But Bengaluru clawed right back into the tie in the closing stages of the first half when Loveday Okechukwu brought down John Johnson inside the box and referee Santosh Kumar promptly awarded a pelty. Chhetri then scored from the spot to reduce the deficit.
Booked for the foul, Loveday received marching orders only a minute later when he hacked down Udanta while the winger was charging down the right.
Starting the second half with a goal to show for and a man more than Sporting, Bengaluru switched gears, leaving the hosts to defend deep. Michael Collins came close to getting Bengaluru an equaliser and what could have been his first goal for the former I–League champions, only to see his low goal bound drive pushed out by Sporting goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya.
Bengaluru eventually found their equaliser when Chhetri tapped into an empty goal after Daniel Lalhlimpuia’s cross fell perfectly for him. The visitors ventured forward with intent and came close to finding a winner when a strike from inside the area by Lalchhuanmawia went inches above the bar.
Bengaluru will now return to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup duties as they host defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim at the Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday. IANS