Bambolim (Goa): Kerala Blasters dashed Chennaiyin FC’s hopes of finishing the season on a high after holding them to a 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim, here on Sunday.
Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev gave Chennaiyin the lead in the 10th minute which was cancelled out by Gary Hooper’s 29th-minute goal from the spot. Csaba Laszlo’s side finished the season with 20 points from as many games. Blasters, who have 17 points 19 games, meet NorthEast United in their final match on Friday.
Ishfaq Ahmed was in charge of the Yellow Brigade after the Kochi-based franchise parted ways with Kibu Vincua following the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Hyderabad FC in their last outing.
Chennaiyin got off to an electrifying start and created numerous chances in the opening minutes of the match. Anirudh Thapa fired a shot in the first minute forcing Blasters keeper Albino Gomes into an early save.
After nearly creating half-a dozen chances, the Marina Machans were successful in breaking the deadlock. Bakary Kone’s header fell to Edwin Vanspaul, who played it over the left flank to find Fatkhulloev. The forward cut inside before unleashing a powerful strike that beat Gomes.
Chennaiyin almost scored their second but Enes Sipovic saw his header hit the crossbar.
Blasters gained momentum in the second quarter and during this period, they pressed their opponents high, putting them pressure.
After sustaining a good spell in Chennaiyin territory, Blasters earned a penalty when Deepak Tangri was the culprit of handling the ball in the area. Hooper ensured he converted the spot-kick to get his team on level terms.
Hooper nearly put his team ahead before the break. Lalruatthara diverted Jeakson Singh's lobbed pass into the path of Hooper at the edge of the box. However, his chip shot sailed over the crossbar.
The second half saw more balanced play as both teams had identical possession and passes. They matched each other with a much relaxed game plan. Though there were chances being created, Vishal Kaith came up with a crucial save to keep the scoreline level.
Hooper’s cross at the farpost found Jordan Murray whose header was parried away by Kaith.
Chennaiyin were reduced to 10 men after Sipovic got his marching orders.
Prasanth K swiveled away from Sipovic. The defender unwittingly stamped Prasanth's foot and the referee deemed that to be bad enough for a second yellow.
Having numerical advantage, Blasters kept searching for the match-winner. Jessel Carneiro struck a goal-bound shot from a distance, but Kaith’s brilliance denied the ball from entering the goal.
Chennaiyin defended well in the final few minutes of the game to end their season with a draw.
FC Goa dash Bengaluru's hopes
FC Goa put paid to Bengaluru FC's play-off hopes with a 2-1 win in the early kick-off.
Goa took the lead through Igor Angulo (20th minute) and Redeem Tlang (23rd) before Suresh Wangjam (33rd) pulled one back.
FC Goa not only consolidated their spot in the top four but are also now unbeaten in 12 games -- matching their own record between 2014 and 2015 and Mumbai City's 12-game run this season.
(With inputs from ISL Media)