Match number 7 of the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2021 was an exciting encounter between debutants Madan Maharaj FC and FC Bengaluru United. The tie ended in a sizzling 3-3 draw at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
A brace from striker Shubham Bhowmick gave Madan Maharaj a 2-0 lead. However, Sanju Pradhan and Arun Kumar were quick to reply, levelling the scores to 2-2. Either side bagged a goal in added time of the second half share one point each.
Bengaluru United began strongly, maintaining possession and counter pressing high up the field on losing the ball. The opening minutes saw FCBU play with a high intensity.
Coming to the debutants, Madhya Pradesh’s Madan Maharaj FC eased themselves into the game gradually. Taking things slow gifted them an early reward. Striker Shubham Bhowmick broke the deadlock in the 12th minute.
The striker was sharp with his finish. He blasted home a first-touch-volley touch, giving keeper Kunzang Bhutia no chance.
Bengaluru United, Madam Maharaj put on a thrilling show
On scoring, Shubham Bhowmick began to exude confidence. His imposing presence caused problems for the FCBU defence. 30 minutes in, Bengaluru were put on the back foot as their talisman Pedro Manzi limped off the pitch.
The striker had injured his left hamstring trying to stretch in order to receive a pass. Manzi left the field in tears, unable to help his team any further. Details pertaining to the injury will be disclosed soon.
Without their star man upfront, Bengaluru United faced a mammoth task of drawing level. FCBU kept possession well in the first half but were missing pace on the wings. The attack looked blunt and could not really trouble the Madan Maharaj FC backline.
After the break, things went further downhill for Bengaluru United. Madan Maharaj got more comfortable when they doubled their lead 52 minutes in. Once again, Shubham Bhowmick added to the scoresheet. Amarendu Chakraborty sent in a long ball looping over the Bengaluru backline, which goalkeeper Kunzang Bhutia should have come out to collect.
Instead, Bhutia opted to stay in his area. This proved costly as Bhowmick pounced and calmly slotted the ball home to make it 2-0. FC Bengaluru United almost came up with an immediate reply. Slovenian forward Luka Majcen found a yard in the box to pivot and fire in a shot. His effort rattled the MMFC crossbar, keeping the scoreline at 2-0.
FCBU continued to absorb pressure, in their hunt for a way back. Finally, in the 68th minute, their efforts paid off. Veteran midfielder Sanju Pradhan exhibited individual brilliance to push his side back into the game.
Pradhan took the ball off his marker and played a quick one-two with Ronaldo Oliveira. Finishing off the move, he powered in a pile-driver of a hit that stunned goalkeeper Abhishek Calvin.
In the 80th minute, the home team restored balance at 2-2. Madan Maharaj failed to deal with a low driven cross into the box. The ball bobbed off the initial clearance and fell to Arun Kumar. Kumar did not need a second invitation as he drove a grounded finish past Calvin.
With ten minutes to go and the scores level at 2-2, the game intensified further. Nitish Hazra had a chance to put Madan Maharaj FC ahead in the 84th minute. However, his lack of composure in a one-on-one situation prevented it.
Madan Maharaj took control in the final five minutes. They almost finished off the game in the 94th minute through substitue Jiten Murmu. FCBU center-half Anup Raj misjudged Abhishek Calvin’s goal-kick. Raj failed to control the ball and Murmu was face-to-face with just the goalkeeper. Murmu made no mistake, beautifully placing a lofted volley over an off-the-line Kunzang Bhutia.
With just some seconds to play, the game looked all but over. FCBU needed just those few seconds to deny MMFC three points. FCBU were committing players forward and were looking to get the ball in the box quickly. The chance came to substitute Jaison, who kept his composure and volleyed it home.
With the ball in the back of the net, everyone at the Bangalore Football Stadium erupted into frenzy. The game had ended with one of the nail-biting finishes.
The result gives Madan Maharaj FC a draw in their first match. Meanwhile, FC Bengaluru United remain on two points from two matches, following two consecutive draws in Group A.
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