Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United settled for a 1-1 draw with both sides scoring from the penalty spot on either side of half-time in their Indian Super League match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.
Bartholomew Ogbeche and Asamoah Gyan’s penalties cancelled each other out as NorthEast continued their unbeaten run on the road, while Kerala Blasters were left without a win since the opening day of the season.
Kerala continued to occupy the ninth position with eight points from 10 matches while NorthEast are seventh with 11 points. Eelco Schattorie chose to drop Messi Bouli and included Sahal Samad in his starting eleven. NorthEast were boosted with the return of Asamoah Gyan from injury as he started alongside Martin Chaves and Traidis Panagiotis in the attacking trident.
It was the home side who had the first opportunity as early as the seventh minute. Prasanth Karuthadathkuni unleashed a rocket from outside the box, but Subashish Chowdhury did well to parry it over.
At the other end from a set-piece by Triadis, Gyan made his presence felt as his towering header missed the target by a couple of inches. Later, Mohammed Rakip gave away the ball cheaply and Lalthathanga Khawlring passed it to Gyan who was in acres of space. However, the high-profile Ghanaian striker skied his effort from inside the box, much to the disappointment of the NorthEast side.
After the half hour mark, Bartholomew Ogbeche was brought down outside the box by Kai Heerings. The ensuing free-kick by Mario Arques was parried away for a corner by the NorthEast custodian. Moustapha Gning’s header went over the bar as he was left unmarked inside the box. Schattorie then chose to substitute Sahal and bring in Messi in order to play more direct.
Kerala won a penalty when Ogbeche chased a pass by Arques and he was impeded in his run by the goalkeeper. The Nigerian striker converted the spot-kick by placing his shot to the left of goalkeeper Subashish Chowdhury to make it 1-0.
The equaliser came through another penalty in less than five minutes into the second half. Seityasen Singh was adjudged to have handled the ball from a Rakesh Pradhan cross and Gyan did the needful to make it 1-1.
The visitors should have doubled their tally when Gyan sent a through-ball for Redeem Tlang but the winger’s attempt missed the far post with only the goalkeeper to beat. In the 67th minute, Khawlhring almost caught the Kerala defence by surprise as his left footed volley from inside the box was just about saved by TP Rehenesh.
The two coaches made attacking changes as Schattorie introduced Rahul KP while Jarni brought in Federico Gallego. However, neither team could create clear-cut chances in the final quarter of the game as they settled for a point each.