ISL: Blasters' Vineeth spoils Chennaiyin's party

Despite settling for a draw against Kerala Blasters, Chennaiyin FC surged to the top of the Indian Super League table with 13 points.

Chennaiyin FC's Rene Mihelic about to score from the penalty spot against Kerala Blasters.   -  R. Ragu

Not a classic as it was expected to be, Chennaiyin FC's game against Kerala was alive only in the last five minutes. The game ended 1-1, and the result sees the home side top the Indian Super League table, albeit temporarily if FC Goa avoids defeat on Saturday.

However, that will be no silver lining for the John Gregory coached side as it had three points in the bag heading into injury time, or so it seemed.

Matchcentre

A contentious penalty saw Rene Mihelic put the home side in front in the 89th minute as the 16,000 strong Chennai crowd went ballistic at the prospect of going back home with a win. 

However, the hero for the Blasters was C.K. Vineeth, as he tapped in from six yards, and he was assisted by Sandhesh Jhinghan who was the culprit for Chennaiyin getting the penalty.

 

The home side dominated proceedings for the most part, and unsurprisingly had the lion's share of the possession. However, it was unable to convert that dominance into a concrete chance. Anirudh Thapa, starting for the suspended Dhanapal Ganesh, was solid in midfield alongside Raphael Augusto. 

Augusto was pulling strings from the middle of the park, but was unable to spark any chances in his team's fortunes. For Kerala, Wes Brown stamped his authority in midfield as the visitor was happy to soak the pressure and attack on the counter.

However, the best chance in the first half fell to the visiting side and Jackichand Singh should have broken the deadlock. A Chennai corner was cleared by the men in yellow and the Blasters set off on a blistering counter led by the lively Courage Pekuson.

The Ghanian found himself 1-on-1 with a defender and he slid a pass to Jackichand who only had the Chennaiyin 'keeper Karanjit Singh to beat. However, his shot blazed over the crossbar much to the relief of the home side. 

Kerala Blasters' Sandesh Jhinghan celebrates the equaliser.   -  PTI

 

Both sides went into half-time break with the deadlock intact. The second period was more of the same, with chances coming at a premium for either side. In the 56th minute Blasters had another chance to take the lead, as a deflection off Chennaiyin's Mailson Alves rocketed towards Karanjit, but the custodian made a sharp save.

Chennaiyin thought it had the game in the bag when the referee pointed to the spot in the 89th minute after Francisco Fernandes' shot struck a diving Jhinghan on the arm.

 

Vehement protests from the Blasters' captain earned him a yellow card as substitute Mihelic coolly passed the ball into the net as the Kerala goalkeeper Rachubka dived to the wrong side.

However, the Blasters didn't give up and pounced on a lax home side defence as Jhinghan redeemed himself by setting up Vineeth for the easiest of tap-ins as the Chennai crowd fell silent.

 

As the full-time whistle blew, Kerala's hero Vineeth took off his yellow jersey and pointed it towards the direction of the Manjappada mimicking Lionel Messi's celebration in last season's El Clasico on the eve of the big game at the Santiago Bernabeu.