Durand Cup 2023: Holders Bengaluru FC and Indian Air Force Football Team Play Out 1-1 Stalemate – Apna TPO

Defending champions Bengaluru FC were held to a 1-1 draw by the Indian Air Force Football Team as the IAFFT earned their first point in the 132nd edition of the Durand Cup at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan Stadium on Monday.

Vivek Kumar put the Air Men ahead in the first half after a defensive error, only for Salam Johnson Singh to draw level in the second half.

This was BFC’s first game in Group C, while the IAFFT will have one more to go, after having lost the first to Gokulam Kerala, who currently top the group with two wins from two outings.

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BFC gaffer Bibiano Fernandez employed a 4-3-3 formation playing Edmund, Salam Johnson and Ashish Jha up front. IAFFT coach Priya Darshan also played three upfront, giving Zico Zoram Thanga a start, but was also cautious enough to deploy a five-man defence.

The match was cagey to begin with, with both sides making half-hearted attempts at goal and trying more to settle down initially.

The opening goal came in the 20-minute mark out of nowhere. Md. Aqib played in a seemingly harmless cross from the left flank into no man’s land between BFC captain and centre-back Parag Shrivas and keeper Sahil.

Parag, tracking back, wanted to first control the ball and in doing so tumbled awkwardly over it and laid it onto the path of Vivek Kumar, while also wrong-footing Sahil all in one fatal tumble. Vivek needed no second invitation and drilled it into an open net.

Six minutes later a cross from Mohammad Danish almost made it a second for Vivek and this time it was meant for him and he did take it away from Sahil, but hit over the target.

The Air Men took the one-goal lead into the break but the champions, who had been working very hard, drew parity just a minute ahead of the hour mark.

Harsh Patre, who had been very impressive in the game got hold of the ball in the middle of the box and twisted and turned in between a couple of defenders to find Salam Johnson Singh clear to his right. The frontman controlled and shot towards goal and it went in after deflecting off diving defenders.

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In the 69th minute, Bibiano made a triple substitution as Shreyas Ketkar, Ashish Jha and Thokchom Singh were replaced with Lalpekhlua, Fanai and Ricky Meetei. The search for a winner was on it seemed.

Robin Yadav had the best chance of clinching it for the champions when he followed an Edmund free-kick beautifully at the far post, but his header from hand-shaking distance found Air Force keeper Dinesh’s glove, struck the left upright and went out for a corner.

BFC had the lion’s share of possession in the game and also had 14 shots at goal to their opponent’s six, with six of those shots on target, but despite seven minutes added on in the end, the deadlock could not be broken.

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