MUMBAI: Mumbai FC goalkeeper Nidhin Lal’s heroic performance helped his side hold defending champions Bengaluru FC to a 1-1 draw in an exciting Round 9 match of the Hero I-League at Cooperage on Tuesday.
The draw helped Mumbai extend their unbeaten run to five matches while denting Bengaluru’s hopes of moving to the top of the table.
Bengaluru dominated from the first whistle, taking complete control of the proceedings. The wingers were quick and sharp with their crosses while Sean Rooney’s presence inside the box was a constant threat for Mumbai. The visitors would have run away with the match inside the first 30 minutes. But Nidhin Lal was outstanding between the posts for Mumbai, keeping them alive with some stupendous saves.
However, it was Mumbai who got the first decent chance of the match in the 12th minute. Jayesh Rane initiated a move from the middle and passed it towards Josimar da Silva. The Brazilian played it through to Sampath Kutty Mani, who found himself one-on-one with Bengaluru keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte. However, his feeble shot was parried away for a corner.
Josimar found the back seconds later but the goal was disallowed as the assistant flagged him offside.
Those two efforts seemed to have woken Bengaluru up. Rooney forced a spectacular save from Lal in the 17th minute. The Mumbai goalkeeper was kept on toes throughout and it took a sublime shot from edge of the box by Eugeneson Lyngdoh to beat Lal and give the visitors the lead in 31st minute.
Bengaluru passed the ball around with added confidence after the goal and skipper Sunil Chhetri almost doubled the lead in the 39th minute. However, his looping shot was tipped over the bar by Lal.
The story remained the same in the second half as well. However, Mumbai played with more intent and they were rewarded in the 49th minute after Josimar’s glancing header off Ashutosh Mehta’s cross beat Ralte. Mumbai seemed content with a draw as they preferred sitting deep and defending stubbornly.
The hosts also had a couple of penalty shouts turned down by the referee. Bengaluru nearly won the tie in the dying seconds but Lal’s acrobatic save kept Rooney’s powerful header out. Lal was rightly named Hero of the Match and was also praised lavishly by both coaches after the match.
Hero of the Match – Nidhin Lal (MUM)