Kerala Blasters' winless run in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 season extended to nine matches after it was held to a drab 1-1 draw by NorthEast United FC on Saturday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
Bartholomew Ogbeche slotted home a penalty in the 43rd minute as the Blasters took a 1-0 lead into the break. NorthEast United equalised early into the second half after the referee's contentious penalty decision allowed Asamoah Gyan to equalise in the 50th minute.
Here are Sportstar's talking points from the dramatic and dull game at Kochi.
Sahal a liability for the Blasters?
Sahal Abdul Samad lit up the ISL with his performances in the 2018-19 season as he took home the Emerging Player of the Season award while also making his national team debut in March this year. His performances have nosedived since then as he has warmed the bench for Kerala this season.
On Saturday, Eelco Schattorie rolled the dice by starting with the 22-year old ahead of in-form Messi Bouli. The decision spectacularly backfired as the midfielder looked out of depth with his poor workrate and failed to make any impact in the final third. He often gave the ball away cheaply and looked disinterested to track back. Kerala was lucky after Redeem Tlang was unable to connect a pass which originated from a Sahal giveaway.
Schattorie decided he had seen enough and brought on Messi Bouli in the 38th minute who showed immediate impact by winning the ball which led to Kerala's penalty in the 43rd minute. The Kerala manager has been defiant in his fan Q&As on Twitter about benching Sahal and the Payyanur native has proved the Dutchman right with his performance on the night.
Arques the silver lining for Blasters
In a game lacking goal mouth action, Blasters was able to create only handful of chances with Mario Arques at the heart of most of them. The midfielder was full of running and was vital in stitching an out of sorts Kerala midfield together. The Spaniard's lofted ball over the NorthEast defence forced Subhasish Roy off his line as he clashed with Ogbeche resulting in a penalty for the host.
The 27-year old came close to putting Kerala in the lead from a free kick in the second half which took a good save from Subhasish to keep out. While the others struggled to knit passes, Arques completed 75 of his 80 passes.
Gyan off colour on his return
Following its 3-0 loss to ATK in the previous game, NorthEast United was given a boost with captain Asamoah Gyan returning to the starting XI. However, the Ghanaian international was unable to inspire a below par NorthEast at Kochi where it has never won.
In the 20th minute, the striker had the goal at his mercy following a defensive lapse from Mohammed Rakip but blasted it over the crossbar while he was marginally offside when he slotted home a through ball from Redeem Tlang in the 36th minute.
There was no spark from the three-time World Cupper in the second half as he was unable to get into scoring positions after registering the penalty in the 50th minute. With the playoffs race heating up, NorthEast needs its talisman to step up in the upcoming matches.
- Delhi Capitals WPL 2024 team analysis: Squad depth, players to watch out, fixtures
- AUS vs NZ, 1st T20I: Australia registers its third-highest successful run chase, beats New Zealand in last-ball thriller
- Coach Thomas Tuchel to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season
- Dortmund fumes over Eindhoven penalty award in Champions League tie
- Yashasvi Jaiswal breaks into top-20 of ICC Test Rankings