Bengaluru, Jan 17: A young Dempo Sports Club held defending champions Bengaluru FC to a goalless draw in their opening Hero I-League match here Saturday with the hosts wasting a first-half penalty that skipper Sunil Chhetri failed to convert.
BFC, who had beaten Dempo 2-1 a week ago in Goa to claim the Federation Cup, looked far from impressive as besides Chhetri, their lead striker Sean Rooney was also guilty of blowing scoring opportunities.
For Dempo, who had lost their previous three meetings with BFC, a draw was particularly satisfying as despite an inexperienced outfit, the visitors still managed to hold their own and with a bit more luck, could have even snatched a dramatic win.
Dempo will have to thank their goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani, who besides saving Chhetri's penalty attempt, also brought off several fine saves to fittingly win the "Hero of the Match" award that carried a prize money of Rs.10,000.
Played at a fast pace, the match witnessed more than a fair share of rough tackles that saw referee Ranjit Baksi booking as many as six players, four of them of Dempo.
The game began at a furious pace with both sides bristling with aggression, leading to yellow cards to Debabrata Roy (Dempo) and Robin Singh (BFC) by the 16th minute.
Goalkeeper Ralte tested
As the game progressed, it was Dempo who looked likely to score as they tested goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte repeatedly and it was just sheer luck that saved the day for the hosts.
At the other end, Rooney looked the most dangerous as he time and again found himself in scoring positions, but blundered each time. He was brought down once inside the box, but referee Ranjit Baksi denied claims for a penalty past the half-hour mark.
Meanwhile, Dempo had their best chance to score soon after when Jewel Raja's long shot rebounded off Ralte into the path of Holicharan Narzaray who shot straight back at the goalkeeper and the ball deflected back into play.
Close to half-time, Rooney yet again failed to score off a Robin Singh pass as the BFC striker's reflex shot was saved on the goal-line by defender Calum Angus.
Angus concedes a penalty
However, Angus conceded a penalty when he tried to clear another attempt by Rooney, but Chhetri try from the spot was rather feeble and Kattimani managed to block it. In the process, Angus picked up a yellow card.
Then came the fourth yellow card of the match, this time BFC defender John Johnson getting booked for a foul as the teams trooped off on even terms.
On change of ends, the exchanges were fairly even with both teams having close looks at the goal, but with the rival defenders, notably Angus and Johnson holding fort with good covering and clearances, the scoreboard remained blank.
The second half witnessed Basksi booking two more Dempo players, Alwyn George and Lenny Rodrigues before the game noticeably slowed down with the visitors content to hold possession to frustrate the hosts.
Kattimani was tested a couple of times by the BFC attackers, but the alert goalkeeper stood his ground to ensure a point for his team.