ISL: Chennaiyin gains from goalless draw

Kerala Blasters runs out of luck. Chances of reaching the knockout stage looks slim.

Action during the ISL fixture between Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters in Kochi on Friday.   -  H. Vibhu

Courage Pekuson was not a picture of confidence as he took that penalty early in the second half. He was sweating rivers and one felt there was a shiver too.

The Ghanaian is known for his dazzling runs but on Friday night, as the packed Nehru Stadium watched with bated breath, the Kerala Blasters midfielder was clearly under pressure. He could just manage a weak shot to his left which Chennaiyin goalkeeper comfortably took care of, diving to his right.

A missed penalty and a shot at the right post by the home team’s big star C.K. Vineeth. Just when they needed it the most, luck deserted the Blasters in the Hero Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday night.

The goalless draw on Friday should be a huge setback to the Blasters’ hopes of making the playoffs while the point gained here will strengthen Chennaiyin’s chances as it retains its third spot in the league table with 29 points. The Blasters remain in the fifth spot with 25 points after their penultimate game.

Desperate for a win, there was a sense of urgency in the home team’s moves. With Dimitar Berbatov directing the team smartly from the midfield and finding the right men for his perfect passes, there were plenty of goal-bound moves right from the start.

Ten minutes into play, Pekuson advanced through the middle, after being fed by Berbatov, and his shot was pushed back into the path of Vineeth by the Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh. The India star was well positioned to score but he could not connect properly, only kicking air.

Ten minutes later, Vineeth was unlucky to see his fiery shot from outside the box hit the right post.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Chennaiyin was quick and advanced with short, crisp passes with Slovenia’s Rene Mihelic and Dutchman Gregory Nelson in the thick of things. But every time there was a threat, the Blasters packed their defence with more men and warded off the danger.

But the Blasters appeared to be in deep trouble towards the end of the first session when Rene Mihelic’s pass from the left found Jeje Lalpekhlua. The Chennaiyin striker aimed for the far corner but his shot went narrowly wide. The home boys heaved a sigh of relief as they went for the break.

The Blasters earned a penalty shortly after the break when their Iceland forward Gudjon Baldvinsson, after a lot of twisting and turning, found his way inside the box. And just as was about to move in for the kill, he was brought down by defender Jerry Lalrinzuala but Pekuson muffed the penalty.

Another golden chance followed as Baldvinsson raced towards the box and sent in a strong shot. The shot was blocked by Karanjit and once again, as in the first half, it came towards Vineeth but the Kerala star could not control the ball properly and messed up the chance once again.

Baldvinsson had another shot at the goal a few minutes later, following a smart cross from Wes Brown, but Karanjit pushed it over.

Chennaiyin’s best chance came in the injury time but Gregory Nelson’s shot hit the right upright. And in the end, there were no goals

The result: Kerala Blasters 0 drew with Chennaiyin FC 0.