Aizawl FC, Bengaluru draw; Bagan held by MFC

AIZAWL, 15th FEB: Defending champions Bengaluru FC (BFC) failed to break their winless run in the sixth consecutive game as Aizawl FC kept their slate clean at home with a 1-1 result in their I-League encounter here on Wednesday. Brandon Vanlalremdika (40th) and Sunil Chhetri (45th) scored first half goals for Aizawl and Bengaluru, respectively, but despite a host of attempts the latter could not grab the all-important winner.

            Courtesy the result, Bengaluru moved to the fourth position with 12 points from eight games. Aizawl, on the other hand, remained third with 17 points from nine outings. The hosts got two chances in the 11th minute. First, Kamo Bayi failed to control a good looking ball near the goal and then Asutosh Mehta scuffed a chance from Mahmoud Amna's pass.

              Aizawl, as expected, were dominating play early on with captain Alfred Jaryan bossing midfield by intercepting the defending champions' passes. In the 32nd minute, the highlanders came the closest to nod ahead when Amna's header came off the bar. Brandon gave Aizawl a well-deserved lead eight minutes later. Asutosh whipped in a superb cross from the right which Brandon tapped in with ease.

            But their joy was short-lived as the visitors drew level at the stroke of halftime. Bengaluru skipper Chhetri once again underlined why he is still India's premier striker with a world class strike from outside the box to blast the ball into the top corner. Chhetri continued to torment the hosts after the restart with Aizawl keeper Albino Gomes producing an excellent save to keep out his header off Harmanjyot Khabra's cross from the right.

           At the hour mark, Bengaluru defender Sandesh Jhinghan headed in Australian midfielder John Watson's cross only to see the goal ruled out for a foul by referee Rowan Arumughan. Bengaluru coach Albert Roca, trying to inject pace into their game and take the lead, replaced Eugeneson Lyngdoh with the Mandar Rao Desai in the 67th minute. Bengaluru upped the ante in the last 10 minutes as substitute Mandar played a one-two with Sena Ralte before crossing for Seminlen Doungel who came in place of Daniel Lalhlimpuia. But Gomes was up to the task, saving Doungel's header.

            Mohun Bagan threw away a chance to close the gap on arch-rivals East Bengal at the top of the I-League table as they played out their second consecutive goalless draw against Mumbai FC at the Cooperage Stadium here on Wednesday. East Bengal dropped two points earlier in the day against Shillong Lajong FC paving the way for second-placed Bagan to trim the gap to one point if they won on the night.

           But with the draw, the opportunity went up in smoke as the green and maroon brigade could only muster one point leaving them on 18 points from eight matches, three points adrift of their eternal foes. Mumbai moved off the foot of the heap with seven points from nine outings.

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