Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC played out a feisty encounter at the low end of the Indian Super League playoff zone, but neither could find a winner as they played out a 2-2 draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday. The draw meant Odisha FC moved back into sixth place, now a point ahead of Bengaluru FC, while Chennaiyin FC are now five points behind them in eighth.
Chennaiyin FC began the game on the front foot, challenging Odisha FC with a high press. After a period of minor threats, they finally found space down the right from where Anirudh Thapa found Vincy Barretto’s diving header in the 19th minute. But Amrinder Singh made the first of his three big saves in the game, stretching to his left to tip it wide.
But it was Odisha FC who broke the deadlock in what turned into a lively first half. In the 24th minute, Chennaiyin FC’s miskicked long ball from the back was intercepted by Odisha FC’s high line, and with two touches, they found Diego Mauricio in the box via Isak Ralte’s through ball. The striker made no mistake, striking powerfully with his left foot on the run to find the goal at the near post.
But Thapa was on hand to find an equalizer the very next minute. Odisha FC were caught unawares, allowing Thapa to run in between the defenders as Aakash Sangwan found him with an inch-perfect cross from the left flank that was headed in from close range.
In the final few minutes of the first half, both Peter Sliskovic and Abdenasser El Khayati threatened to score, with the latter being denied on a long shot by Amrinder. But once again, it was Odisha FC who went ahead minutes into the second half. This time, it was Chennaiyin FC’s defence that wasn’t alert to a run into the box. Nandhakumar Sekar was allowed time on the right flank to put in a low cross as Isak slipped into the six yard box to slot the ball into the net.
But Chennaiyin FC took control of the game again from there. In the 56th minute, they found another equaliser through El Khayati. Barreto’s run down the left seemed to have ended in a feeble cross, but the ball bounced back into the path of the winger - he lobbed it to find El Khayati in front of goal, who took a calm touch before placing his shot to beat Amrinder.
Amrinder put his body on the line in the 67th minute to deny substitute Kwame Karikari from close range, and El Khayati nearly pulled off a goal-of-the-season candidate when he curled a long-range shot with a short backlift only to find the post. That was their last substantial chance to win the game.
The result, Chennaiyn FC’s seventh game without a win, means they cannot afford to drop points in their last four games if they want to stay in playoff contention. They face Kerala Blasters next on February 7, while Odisha FC return home to play FC Goa on February 6.