ISL: Blasters squander two-goal lead to split points with NorthEast United

First strike
Sergio Cidoncha celebrates after scoring Kerala Blasters' opening goal. Photo: ISL

Bambolim (Goa): Substitute Idrissa Sylla equalised in the dying moments to help NorthEast United hold Kerala Blasters to a 2-2 draw in an Indian Super League (ISL) game, here on Thursday.

Goals from Sergio Cidoncha (5th minute) and Gary Hooper (45th) gave Kerala a 2-0 lead at the half-time break.

But Ghanaian striker Kwesi Appiah (51st) reduced the margin before Sylla's injury time equaliser enabled NorthEast to go home with a point in their kitty.

The result took NorthEast to the top of the table with four points from two matches, while KBFC opened their account. The Yellow Brigade have one point from two matches.

After a minute's silence to honour the late Diego Maradona, Blasters got off to a dream start with Cidoncha heading in a Seityasen free-kick in the fifth minute.

The Spaniard's looped header was a thing of beauty no goalkeeper in the world could have saved that.

Sahal Abdul Samad's absence had meant that Cidoncha was playing higher up and that strategy worked.

In the 23rd minute, Hooper fluffed a sitter when NorthEast's defensc was caught off guard.

Cidoncha, after receiving the ball from Hooper, squared it back to him, with the Englishman facing an open goal. Hooper's first-time shot, though, blazed over the bar.

Both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances until the end of the first half when an offensive move from Blasters ended with the referee pointing to the spot.

Rakesh Pradhan was rather harshly adjudged to have slashed Lalthathanga Khawlhring down. Hooper fired the resulting penalty straight down the middle.

NorthEast keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury managed to get a foot to it, but the touch wasn't enough to keep the ball out.

The Highlanders started the second-half positively and were soon rewarded for their intent. Some poor defending by Blasters allowed Appiah to score from close range.

However, Appiah turned villain later when NorthEast were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute.

The Ghanaian tried to find Lalengmawia, but the latter was brought down in the box by Jessel Carneiro.

Appiah stepped up to take the penalty but his spot-kick hit the crossbar before ricocheting out.

On target
Gary Hooper converts from the penalty spot for Blasters. Photo: ISL

Minutes after his miss, Appiah was replaced by Guinean forward Sylla who would go on to have a major influence on the game.

Nus' side kept knocking on the door and was soon rewarded.

Sylla missed a chance to draw level in the 83rd minute when he directed a header over the bar.

But he made up for that in injury time, superbly controlling a long ball from Gurjinder Kumar with his chest before powering home past Blasters keeper Albino Gomes.

The saviour
Idrissa Sylla, right, struck la ate equaliser for NorthEast United FC. Photo: ISL
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