Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC played out a goalless draw in an engaging Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, on Monday.
Jamshedpur moved to the second spot on the table with 12 points but would rue their missed opportunity to close the gap on leaders Mumbai City.
Bengaluru now have two draws in a row and their first clean sheet but languish at second-last with just six points.
Sunil Chhetri was named on the bench for the second game in a row. Jamshedpur were dealt a major blow even before the first whistle was blown. Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis suffered an injury during the pre-match warm up with Jordan Murray replacing him up top.
Udanta Singh had Jamshedpur in trouble early on. First, the India international failed to tap in from Ajith Kamaraj’s cross and then minutes later, he ran past the defence to square the ball into the box, only to be let down by his strikers, who failed to reach on time.
Brazilian midfielder Alex Lima had other plans at the opposite end. The Bengaluru defence failed to close down Lima as he swiveled past three men to take aim at goal. However, his attempt went wide.
Both goalkeepers were called into action multiple times in the first half. Hat-trick hero from last week, Greg Stewart crossed in a ball towards Murray but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu put in a critical clearance.
Rehenesh TP’s effort was more spectacular. Ashique Kuruniyan spewed in a ball from the left perfectly for Cleiton Silva, whose header was parried off brilliantly.
The change of ends brought more drama for the neutral as both team were handicapped by their own profligacy. Greg Stewart and Lima continued to be the focal points of attack for the Men of Steel but it was effective defending that kept BFC out of trouble.
Prince Ibarra had just a couple of shots, that too off target but Cleiton, who looked promising was substituted off for Chhetri with quarter of an hour to go with Marco Pezzauioli looking for inspiration from the India captain.
Chhetri almost pulled off a blinding winner in the 83rd minute. Ashique whipped in a long freekick that was headed goalwards by Chhetri. A slight deflection off Alan Costa and the ball bounced off the crossbar, summing up the evening of some evenly contested football.
Premier League set to plough through festive schedule despite COVID surge
Premier League clubs have agreed to continue playing games scheduled over the festive period despite a surge in COVID-19 cases postponing several fixtures, the BBC reported on Monday.
Ten Premier League games have been postponed this month due to outbreaks amid a busy schedule where teams are set to play three times between Boxing Day and Jan. 3.
Only four of the 10 weekend’s fixtures were played after teams told the Premier League they were unable to name a full strength side.
Clubs will be expected to play games so long as they have 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper, the BBC said.
The Premier League did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
British media reported FA Cup replays in rounds three and four have been scrapped to help clear the fixture backlog.
However, the English Football League (EFL), which also organises the League Cup, said its fixtures will be played as scheduled.
League Cup semi-finals are played over two legs in January. The competition’s quarter-final matches — which has seven Premier League teams in action — are set to be played this week.
“While the League acknowledges there will likely be future postponements to navigate where COVID-19 cases are identified, there is optimism that disruption can be minimised following implementation of RED protocols, a daily testing regime and ongoing vaccination rollout,” the EFL said.
EFL Chief Executive Trevor Birch said: “We will continue to work with clubs, authorities and other agencies to monitor the COVID-19 case rate and be prepared to respond accordingly.
“For now the view remains that we can continue to deliver games safely where clubs have sufficient healthy personnel in place, on and off the pitch.”
The EFL had 19 games across its divisions postponed last weekend due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
We have to be daring to beat teams like Sevilla: Xavi
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez wants his team to be aggressive and fearless as they face second placed Sevilla in LaLiga on Tuesday, while also showing great respect and admiration for their rivals.
“They are doing things very well,” Xavi told a news conference on Monday.
“You can look at Bayern (Munich), they are playing great, but I what I like about Sevilla is how they work, their coach (Julen Lopetegui) is one of the best, they also have Monchi (sports director). Sevilla should be an example for us.”
In a match postponed from week four, Barcelona will have a difficult task to stop a Sevilla side who are in great form, having lost only two league games so far this season. Their 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday kept them within six points of LaLiga leaders Real Madrid with one game in hand.
“We have to be daring to beat teams like Sevilla. We were daring against Bayern and lost 3-0 because of details. We won’t change that, it’s in our identity to be aggressive but Sevilla is also like that. It will be a extraordinary match on Tuesday,” Xavi said.
Barcelona are seventh in the standings, 16 points behind Real Madrid. However, Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui said that he is seeing progression at the Nou Camp since the arrival of Xavi a month ago.
“We had a tough game on Saturday and now will have a tougher one against a much improved rival,” Lopetegui told a news conference on Monday. “What I see is one of the best Barcelona in a long time. They are developing types of players that are difficult to see, young and talented, plus they have Ousmane Dembele back from injury.
“I expect a very powerful, very complex Barcelona, with the clear touch that Xavi has given to them.”
Sevilla have some injury concerns, however, with their training session on Monday including only 15 players from the first team.
Lucas Ocampos, Diego Carlos, Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel all left the match against Atletico injured and are a doubt to face Barca. Jesus Navas and Erik Lamela are out but Youssef En-Nesyri could be back after missing several weeks.
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