Bengaluru: Holders Bengaluru FC began their title defence with a goalless draw against a spirited NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Monday. Debuts were handed out to several new signings, including Asamoah Gyan, Raphael Augusto and Ashique Kuruniyan but the teams couldn't be separated at the end the riveting contest.
Bengaluru got off the blocks quickly and pressed NorthEast high up the field. Ashique announced his arrival with a trademark solo run from the left-back position in the 15th minute. The former FC Pune City player beat three players on his way into the box but shot wide of the mark.
NorthEast United were pinned to their own half in the early stages but were the first to have a shot on target. Collecting a layoff from Asamoah Gyan, Uruguayan Martin Chaves dribbled past Juanan and forced a diving save from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 21st minute.
A few minutes later, Raphael Augusto split the Highlanders' defence with an exquisite pass that released Udanta into the box but the Indian winger failed to test the goalkeeper with a wayward shot from a promising position.
The intensity dropped as the first half wore on. The Bengaluru defence failed to clear a loose ball inside the box after the half-hour mark and Rahul Bheke's header back to Gurpreet ended up with Chaves who slashed wide in front of an open goal.