ISL 2023-24: Javi scores late as Bengaluru FC hold Punjab FC to draw in six-goal thriller

Bengaluru:  Attacking midfielder Javi Hernandez struck the equaliser in the 67th minute as first-timer Punjab FC were held on to a 3-3 draw by Bengaluru FC in a league match of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season which was played here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

The ISL debutants played their fourth draw of the season in their eighth-round match with Nikhil Prabhu, Dimitrios Chatziisaias and Luka Majcen scoring for them. Harsh Patre, Curtis Main and Javi scored for Bengaluru. Bengaluru levelled the match from two goals behind denying Punjab FC their first win of the season.

Punjab FC have four points from eight matches while Bengaluru FC have seven points from eight matches.

Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis made three changes to the starting lineup with Greek defender Dimitrios Chatziisaias coming back from suspension and replacing Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Ravi Kumar in goal instead of Kiran Kumar Limbu and Prasanth K. Mohan in place of Krishnananda Singh. The home side’s head coach, Simon Grayson set his side in a 4-4-2 formation with Indian team Captain Sunil Chhetri and Curtis Main leading the frontline.

The Shers had a lively start to the game with Madih Talal running the show from the centre of the park. The Frenchman troubled the home side with his excellent runs and was creating space for Juan Mera and Luka Majcen ahead of him.

PFC were putting continuous pressure on Bengaluru and that brought the first goal for the away side in the 19th minute. Madih Talal’s delivery was precise from a free kick and it found Nikhil Prabhu inside the box whose deft touch beat Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal to give PFC the lead.

Bengaluru responded well, equalising soon through a good team move. Javi Hernandez, Sunil Chettri and Harsh Patre combined well and the latter found himself in space inside the box. The youngster held his composure and finished with his left foot beyond PFC keeper Ravi Kumar.

Punjab FC did not wait long to regain the lead as they scored again from a set piece in the 26th minute. Talal’s corner was cleared by the BFC defence but the rebound was put inside the box by Suresh Meitei which was met by Dimitrios whose looping header found the far corner.

The Shers increased their lead in the 30th minute through Luka Majcen. Juan Mera set Luka with a back heel and the captain beat Gurpreet with a pile driver of a shot from outside the box for his third goal of the season.

Bengaluru cut down the lead to a single goal before the end of the half with Curtis Main making the most of confusion from PFC keeper Ravi Kumar and Dimitrios. Ravi Kumar spilled a cross from Roshan Singh after he collided with his defender and the ball fell for Curtis who had to just tap the ball into the goal.

Simon Grayson brought in three changes bringing in Suresh Singh Wangjam, N. Siva Sakthi and Serbian defender Slavko Damjanovic while Staikos Vergetis made one change with Krishnananda Singh coming in place of Prasanth at the start of the second half.

The substitutions made an impact on the home side as they showed more control in the game. Both teams failed to show the same intensity as they did in the first half as they could not make any clear-cut chances in the initial exchanges.

Javi squandered a chance as his shot went wide while on the other end, Juan Mera’s shot was blocked by the Bengaluru defence. Madih Talal was replaced in the 60th minute through injury.

Bengaluru equalised in the 67th minute when Juan Mera was dispossessed in the middle of the pitch and Sunil Chhetri set up Javi Hernandez and the Spaniard found the net through the hands of the PFC keeper.

Bengaluru started to push the PFC defence as they started to dominate possession, not allowing their midfield to play out to the other side of the pitch. Ravi Kumar was forced to make a couple of saves including a brilliant one-handed save from an effort by Sunil Chhetri.

PFC withstood the pressure from the home side and kept the score line intact. Both sides went for the winner in the final minutes of the match but the game ended with both teams sharing the spoils.

Punjab FC will face East Bengal in their next match on 9th December at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.


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