Indian Super League: Mumbai Hold Kerala 1-1, Chennaiyin Beat FC Pune City
The Blasters' striker Mark Sifneos may have ended 194 goal-less minutes for his side this season but Rene Muelensteen's team is still winless after Mumbai City forward Balwant Singh got an equaliser in the 77th minute.
Kerala Blasters' winless streak continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw in their third home match of the Indian Super League season four on Sunday. The Blasters' striker Mark Sifneos may have ended 194 goal-less minutes for his side this season but Rene Muelensteen's team is still winless after Mumbai City forward Balwant Singh got an equaliser in the 77th minute. Sifneos swept in Rino Anto's cross to give the home side the lead in the 14th minute. It was Dimitar Berbatov, stellar on the night with his incisive passing from midfield, who threaded a pass through to Anto.
The right back did not make any mistake in picking out Sifneos, who steered the ball past Mumbai City goalkeeper Amrinder Singh in front of a delirious Kochi crowd. And just when it seemed that Blasters had done enough to record their first win of the season after two 0-0 draws in a row, Balwant thumped in a low cross from Everton Santos in the 77th minute.
It was a game of missed chances and drama in front of goal as Santos' shot was brilliantly saved by Paul Rachubka onto the woodwork and Blasters striker C K Vineeth was sent off in the dying minutes after a second yellow card for diving.
The Blasters had made their intentions clear from the start when Courage Pekuson dragged his shot wide from outside the box in just the fourth minute. Within the next 60 seconds, Kerala sent in a series of crosses from both sides, but Mumbai somehow saw off the storm. Jackichand Singh found Vineeth with a long ball but the forward's brilliant turn and shot was saved. Jackichand was at the receiving end in the 43rd minute when Berbatov found him with an inch-perfect lobbed through ball but the Indian winger shot it over despite having options in the middle of the six-yard box.
The Blasters, despite being down to 10 men, pushed bodies forward but Mumbai City held on to a draw with Berbatov shooting over the bar with virtually the last kick of the match. Chennaiyin FC got the better of FC Pune City by a solitary goal in their Indian Super League clash to move to the second spot. A 82nd-minute goal from captain Henrique Sereno was enough for the former ISL champions to win their second match on the trot at the Balewadi Stadium. After a cagey opening 15 minutes, Pune took control but could not create any clear-cut goal scoring chances.
Some of their best chances of the half came from set plays. Marcos Tebar's free-kick in the 19th minute was headed down by a Pune player to Alfaro, who in turn passed in on to
Rafael Lopez. But the Spanish defender's side-footed shot went inches wide of the Chennaiyin goal. Chennaiyin FC's best chance of the first half fell to Gregory Nelson in the 40th minute. After stringing together a few passes in midfield, Inigo Calderon sent in a delightful cross into the box for Nelson to connect. The Dutchman's diving header, however, was cleared by Rafael.
Both sides started the second half much like the first -- unable to create chances going forward. In the 60th minute, Pune goalkeeper Vishal Kaith almost gifted a goal to John Gregory's side. The goalkeeper came out of his box to collect a harmless-looking cross from Jerry Lalrinzuala but could only palm it in the path of midfielder Francisco Fernandes.
Rafael, however, was again in the right place at the right time to make another goal-line clearance. At the other end, Alfaro should have given Pune the lead in the 77th minute. After finding himself clear on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat, the Uruguayan slashed the ball over the crossbar.
The defender rose above everyone else to thump Gavilan Martinez's corner past the FC Pune City goalkeeper.