Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United settled for a goalless draw at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium at Guwahati on Friday leaving the teams stood rooted in eighth and ninth positions in the Indian Super League (ISL) table respectively.
After a dull first half where chances were far and few, both the teams attacked with intent in the second half but a goal remained elusive. Nikhil Kadam was unable to get past Kerala Blasters' keeper Bilal Khan while Bartholomew Ogbeche clattered his shot into the side netting from close range.
Here are Sportstar's talking points from the Friday's match.
NorthEast's playoff chances well and truly over
NorthEast United desperately needed a win against Kerala Blasters to keep its bleak chances of a top-four finish alive. Half hour into the match, the vastly-empty Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati seemed deserted as the Highlanders made minimal effort to move the ball upfield. There was a minute of play in the first half which got the crowd going. Federico Gallego floated a free kick towards Andrew Koegh who chested it down and spun away from his marker to hit the ball on the volley which flew wide off the crossbard.
However, these moments were sparse in a game dominated by flying tackles, half-chances and poor finishing. Despite showing urgency in the second half, NorthEast never looked like it would break the deadlock.|
Kerala's forwards fail to impress
Eelco Schattorie, who was suspended from the touchline, decided to throw the dice with his starting XI as he made five changes, one forced and four on his own, to the line up from the 6-3 loss against Chennaiyin FC. The tactic worked to an extent as Kerala bossed possession and created multiple chances.
The end result was disappointing as Sahal Abdul Samad, who started in place of suspended Messi Bouli, could not create a single chance and shot wide twice during his 83-minute stay. Even the club's topscorer Bartholomew Ogbeche went missing for the majority of the second half and crashed his shot into the sidenetting from a distance he should've scored. Five of Blasters' six shots on the goal also came in the second half despite being the best team in the first half underlined a forgettable night at Guwahati.
Zuiverloon and Gning the silver lining for Blasters
If there were two stand-out performances from the drab draw on Friday, it has to be the Moustapha Gning and Gianni Zuiverloon. The duo who were tasked with breaking the opposition's moves forward, fulfilled their duties and also contributed in attack. Gning popped up in dangerous positions inside the box as he contributed with three of his side's six shots on the goal.
Zuiverloon, a centre-back by trade, showcased his attacking skill set with some delightful diagonal passes from the back and even threatened to score from open play in the final minutes of the game. The Dutchman was the most creative player on the pitch with four of his passes leading to shots on goal.
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