Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen made his mark on the Indian Super League, scoring with an overhead kick in injury time against NorthEast United FC to keep Bengaluru FC’s unbeaten run alive and earning a 1-1 draw against NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday.
Federico Gallego (64′) seemed to have got the Highlanders their first ever win over Bengaluru FC with a goal in the second half, but Cuadrat’s men fought back to extend their unbeaten start to the campaign to eight games. The result means Bengaluru (23 points) stay four points clear at the top ahead of NorthEast United FC.
With defender Albert Serran returning to the starting line-up, Cuadrat opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation, with skipper Sunil Chhetri the lone striker, as Chencho dropped to the bench.
The first big chance of the game fell to the hosts in the 12th minute when Lalthathanga Khawlhring slipped a pass through to Redeem Tlang with the Bengaluru FC defence beaten. But Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, as he does so often, charged out and shut down all angles before conceding a corner.
But spare the chance that Tlang had, the half was – for most parts – measured and without much to write about. The Blues, who had been put NorthEast United FC keeper Pawan Kumar under considerable pressure with some incessant pressing in the first half, tested the former Bengaluru FC man in the 56th minute when Erik Paartalu fired hard on target.
However, it was NorthEast United FC who scored against the run of play when Federico Gallego scored his third goal of the season in the 64th minute. Having given away possession in their own half, Bengaluru FC were caught out when Bartholomew Ogbeche chipped over to pick Gallego. The man from Uruguay cut and fired on target, and while his hit did take a bit of Gurpreet’s arm, it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from bouncing into the net.
Needing to chase the game, Cuadrat brought on Chencho for Serran and switched to a 4-3-3, with Chhetri drifting out wide on the left. As the hosts defended deep, throwing all their players behind the ball, the Blues threw the kitchen sink and a little more but fell short in the final third on most occasions.
Chencho had his first chance of the game when Xisco chested down Khabra’s long punt in the Bhutanese striker’s path, but the effort on the volley whizzed wide of target. Cuadrat then pulled off Nishu Kumar, who would be replaced by Kean Lewis, who would have a part to play in the equalizer.
Collecting a pass down the left flank, Kean floated one in to find Chhetri, and the skipper’s header back into a dangerous area found Chencho unmarked. With the ball hanging in the air, the striker pulled one out of the top drawer with an acrobatic overhead that would find its way past a defender and Kumar in the NorthEast United FC goal in the second minute of injury time.
Bengaluru FC travel home next, where they will face Mumbai City FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday, December 9.