Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC share spoils in tightly-contested draw
A tightly contested 1-1 draw between Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC spelt the end of the latter's five-match winning streak in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Monday. Sahal Abdul Samad had put the Blasters in front in the first half before Vincy Barreto returned to score against his former club with an equaliser in the second.
Despite playing a part in five of the seven goals against NorthEast United FC last week, Abdenasser El Khayati was benched as Sourav Das came into the starting XI. The vacant foreigner spot was taken by Vafa Hakhamaneshi as Gurmukh Singh dropped to the bench. The other two changes saw Ajith Kumar and Barretto coming in to replace Mohammad Rafique and Rahim Ali.
Inside a minute, Adrian Luna tried to lift a free kick over the keeper from the left flank, but it was palmed over the bar by Debjit Majumder. Luna replicated the shot he attempted in the first minute from a long-range free kick. This time a dipping and swerving effort came straight at the keeper from the central part of the pitch before it was palmed over the bar again in the 21st minute.
Midway through the first half, Kaliuzhnyi spotted Samad’s run and played a sublime through ball into the path of the winger. Majumder came off his line in an effort to close the angle for Samad, but the 25-year-old cleverly dinked it over the charging keeper to score his third goal of the season.
In the 27th minute, Vanspaul curled a promising cross into the box from the left flank and Duker was set to score before Nishu Kumar’s crucial intercepting header put the ball out for a corner.
Three minutes into the second half, half-time substitute Ali was picked out in the box by an inch-perfect ball from Vanspaul. The striker’s first-time volley was parried straight into the path of Baretto by Prabhsukhan Gill. From close range, the midfielder smashed it home against his former club.
In the 81st minute, substitute El Khayati shrugged off his marker in midfield and slid a ball through to Sliskovic down the right flank. As Anirudh Thapa darted inside the box, Sliskovic scuffed his cross, and the ball went out for a goal kick. That signaled the end of any major attacking moves from either team in the final few minutes of the game.
The solitary point takes Kerala Blasters from sixth to fourth, ahead of Odisha FC on goal difference and just a point off ATK Mohun Bagan. The Blasters will return home to host Odisha FC on December 26, Monday. Chennaiyin FC remain in seventh, now four points off the final playoff spot. The Marina Machans will travel to the west coast to face Mumbai City FC on December 24, Saturday.