Chennai: Debutants Neroca extended their unbeaten run to seven matches holding Chennai City to a goalless draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Tuesday.
Both the coaches surprisingly left out their in-form strikers Jean Joachim and Singam Subhash Singh from the opening line-up in a match that could have gone either way but ended up being a stalemate.
The match began on an even note but it was the hosts who had the first chance when captain Soosai Raj’s shot went above the bar after he had latched onto a Edwin Vanspaul through ball. Neroca on the other focused on long balls hoping for their strikers to use their height to the fullest.
Chances seemed hard to come by as both sides defended deep waiting for a mistake to capitalise. But Soosai Raj waited for none. While his eight minute free-kick hit the wall, his long- throw nearly brought Chennai a goal at the half-hour mark.
A Charles Anandraj’s header from the 23 year-old’s long-throw was not tackled well by the Neroca custodian Lalit Thapa, who cleared the ball only as far as Murilo Almeida. But Williams rose to the occasion with a fine-tackle before the Timor-Leste international could fire in a shot.
The game seemed a lopsided contest as the visitors were happy to defend deep while Chennai kept on attacking in vain. Much like the first-half, one more chance went bagging after the break when Charles shot straight at the goalkeeper from a goal-melee distance after being put clear by Fabien.
Gift Raikhan’s change to bring on David Lalbiakzara in place of Yumnam Singh in the 54th minute seemed the key for Neroca to put the hosts behind but failed miserably as the Chennai pair of Soosai Raj and Charles Anandraj bossed the midfield, with the latter coming close to scoring quite a number of times, but failure to do so meant Chennai for the second successive time dropped points.
The draw also meant not only did Neroca extended their unscathed run to seven game about also remained third with 15 points, just three behind leaders East Bengal having played a match less. Chennai meanwhile remained seventh with nine points from the same number of matches.