Bengaluru: Champions Bengaluru FC kept their composure to pull off a 1-1 draw with Mumbai FC in an ill-tempered and highly physical Hero I-League match here Tuesday. It was the fourth straight tie between the two teams.
Mumbai, after forging ahead in the 67th minute on a goal by Rahul Bheke, conceded the equalizer two minutes from the end of regulation period with Robin Singh doing the honours for the hosts, but was given marching orders soon after.
Referee Ranjit Bakshi certainly had his hands full in more ways than one with tempers on the edge and the consequent fouls, and the official was busy flashing cards at the offenders before pulling out the red card to Robin Singh.
For Mumbai, it was a result they would not mind especially after having lost their previous game at home 6-0 and the visitors did just enough to walk away with one point, something that left Bengaluru FC, who were looking to close the gap with leaders Mohun Bagan, quite frustrated.
Mumbai coach Khalid Jamil benched five players from the previous game and the changes seemed to have fetched him the desired dividends.
A scrappy first half saw the Blues, who had dominated the proceedings, coming close to scoring on a few occasions, but it was not to be their session as skipper Sunil Chhetri nearly found the net twice.
A reprieved Mumbai seemed to play the waiting game as they slipped in a few raids, but never quite looked like scoring, and the half-time whistle must have come as a relief of sorts for the visitors who had just about survived a few close calls.
Tempers and temperature soared on resumption and referee Bakshi was kept busy as he booked Chika Wali and Dane Pereira of Mumbai in the first session, and just after the break, Sean Rooney and John Johnson found their names in the referee's list while Josimar da Silva Martins followed with a yellow card.
The Blues were clearly frustrated as Rooney's claim for a penalty after being brought down, was ignored and soon after, Mumbai struck with Bheke heading home a corner by John Coutinho to put the visitors ahead in the 67th minute.
A desperate Bengaluru coach Ashley Westwood carried out all three substitutions, bringing in Lalchhuanmawia for Keegan Pereira, Robin Singh for Udanta Singh and Beikhokhei Beingaichho for Eugenson Lyngdoh in a bid to step up the pace.
With tempers on short fuse, the situation threatened to turn ugly with the partisan crowd too getting into the act as Robin Singh struck the equalizer, two minutes from close as he slotted home the ball that had come to him via Johnson who gained possession from a Joshua Walker corner.
Rather than celebrating the goal, the crowd hurled missiles at the Mumbai dugout, but fortunately, the situation did not get out of hand.
More drama was to follow in the five minutes of stoppage time as Robin Singh blotted his book by earning a red card with about 60 seconds left for the close after digging an elbow into Wali.