Gokulam Kerala FC came up with an improved show at home but it wasn’t enough to register a victory over Chennai City FC, which held it a 1-1 draw in the Hero I-League match at the EMS corporation stadium on Monday.
Gokulam started and ended the match in a flourish but paid the price for its inconsistency in its midfield which was exposed by the visiting side. Ivory Coast striker Bayi Kamo Stephane put Gokulam ahead in the 21 minute while Frenchman Jean Michael Joachim restored parity for Chennai side in the 28 minute.
The first half was lively with both teams playing positively in search of goals. To its credit, the Chennai side matched its rival in moves and at times dominated the home team in the midfield.
The host made four changes from the team that lost to Lajong FC in Shillong and it switched to the attacking mode quite early, but it was Chennai side that created the first chance in the fourth minute.
Gokulam goalkeeper Nikhil Barnard blocked an effort from Joachim and Edwin Sydney couldn’t quite get hold of the rebound which came his way to waste the chance. The first Gokulam attempt on Chennai's goal came in the sixth minute when Francis Idriss Ambane’s precise cross from the left found an unmarked Vicky Metei, whose shot had goal written all over it but the ball was cleared on the goalline by the Chennai defence.
Gokulam’s Cameroon import Ambane was lively on the left flank and regularly arrowed in crosses at the Chennai box to keep up the pressure. However, Chennai’s captain Soosairaj began to make his presence felt and the striker ran in to connect a free ball from the middle but his effort was wayward in the 15 minute.
Gokulam went ahead in the 21st minute when captain Sushanth Mathew released Stephane with a through ball. The Ivory Coast forward muscled his way into the box and beat goalkeeper and defender Henry Mosang to score the opening goal.
Almost immediately, Chennai had the chance to equalise but Joachim was wasteful with his effort. Gokulam goalkeeper Nikhil made twin saves off Soosairaj and Joachim in the 26th minute but conceded a corner. Joachim powerfully headed in the corner taken by Edwin Sydey to restore parity for Chennai side in the 28th minute.
Ambane's absence in the second half due to an injury was felt as Gokulam struggled to gain possession in midfield. Chennai had more of the ball but lacked the finish. Against the run of play, Stephane nearly put Gokulam ahead again in the 65th minute, but his shot from failed to find the target.
Chennai's goalkeeper Uros Poljanec's extended leg saved a certain goal in the 78th minute when Metei connected a fine cross from Khaled Al saleh. It was followed by a phase that saw Gokulam attack with vigour but Chennai hold on to seal a draw.
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