Bengaluru FC and NorthEast United kick-started their Indian Super League (ISL) season with a goalless draw on Monday at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
The defending champions swapped their traditional 4-2-3-1 to the classic 4-3-3, with new-signing Manuel Onwu spearheading the attack alongside Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh.
Robert Jarni fielded a 4-4-1-1 at the other end, with Asamoah Gyan and Martin Chaves leading the attack.
The hosts started the game on the front foot, enjoying a lion’s share of possession in the opening minutes. But a pale front-line undid most of the efforts of a creative midfield.
Their first real chance of the game arrived in the 14th minute, with Raphael Augusto setting up Onwu. But his touch let him down and the promising move failed to bear fruit. Ashique followed it with a brilliant run just moments later, as he burst into the NorthEast United box, dribbling past two defenders. But he dragged his effort wide.
At the other end, Martin Chaves tested Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with a tremendous effort from outside the box. But the Bengaluru custodian produced an equally impressive save to deny the Uruguayan.
Ghana legend Gyan – who was a spectator for most of the game – slotted past the Indian goalkeeper in the 36th minute. But the offside flag went up and the scoreline stayed 0-0.
Bengaluru dominated possession yet again in the opening moments of the second half but lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Eventually, it was Gyan who was involved in the first eye-catching moment of the second half as his curler from inside the box struck the crossbar before it went out.
At the other end, Nishu Kumar unleashed a piledriver from outside the area but NorthEast custodian Subhasish Chowdury reacted with a stunning save to keep the defender at bay.
In the end, a draw was a fair result, with Bengaluru's wasteful frontline and NorthEast's pale midfield cancelling each other out.