Gritty Chennaiyin FC earn hard-fought point after late equaliser
Chennaiyin FC earned a point at home against league leaders Atlético de Kolkata with an equaliser deep into stoppage time. It was a tale of two penalties as Luis García’s 35th minute spot kick was cancelled out by Elano Blumer’s 92nd minute leveller.
Kolkata looked to take control early on, with García and Jofre combining well to fashion a chance, but no Kolkata player could manage to get on the end of Jofre’s cross. Chennaiyin grew into the game, doing the bulk of the attacking with John Stiven Mendoza and Jean-Eudes Maurice looking particularly impressive. Against the run of play, however, Atlético de Kolkata took the lead. Chennaiyin goalkeeper Shilton Paul raced off his line to deal with a long ball forward towards Mohammed Rafi, but the onrushing Rafi got to the ball first before Paul clattered into the striker. The keeper received a straight red for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, and García made no mistake, tucking the penalty into the bottom right corner past substitute keeper Gennaro Bracigliano.
Chennai pushed on in search of an equaliser, despite their numerical disadvantage, not to mention the loss of an attacking player as Maurice was substituted so Bracigliano could come on, but Kolkata preserved their lead going into halftime.
The home side’s job became slightly easier in the beginning of the second half, as Kolkata saw a player sent off as well, with Jofre picking up a second yellow. With the game now ten vs ten, Chennai were the dominant force. Bernard Mendy in particular drove forward from the back with a few eye-catching runs. Kolkata were content playing on the counter, and came close to extending their lead when Borja saw Bracigliano off his line and launched a spectacular long-range shot, although Bracigliano retreated in time make the save.
Chennaiyin’s pressure finally paid off in stoppage time, when Mendoza was brought down in the box by Kingshuk Debnath. Elano, the league’s leading scorer, smashed home the subsequent penalty emphatically into the top left corner to level the score.
Elano was later awarded the ‘Swift Moment of the Match’ for his goal, with Mendy picking up the ‘Amul Fittest Player of the Match’ award and Chennaiyin midfielder Harmanjot Khabra earning the ‘ISL Emerging Player of the Match’ accolade. García was named the ‘Hero of the Match’.
Head coach Marco Materazzi will relish the hard-earned point. He will nonetheless want to get back to winning ways when Chennaiyin take on NorthEast United FC at home on November 8. Kolkata will also want to win their home match against Pune City FC on November 7 to cement their place atop the standings.