Kochi: Chennaiyin FC eked out a goalless draw against Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Friday to inch closer to a play-off spot in the Indian Super League.
It was the first 0-0 draw in the league since the December 1, and while it doesn’t end the Blasters’ season, they need to hope for other results to go their way to stay in contention. They’re in fifth place, just one point behind Jamshedpur, who have a game in hand. Chennaiyin FC are placed third after accumulating 29 points after 17 games, the same as second-placed FC Pune City, who have a better goal difference.
The Blasters could have won the game when they got a penalty just seven minutes into the second half. Gudjon Baldvinsson had stormed into Chennaiyin’s box and took a tumble when Jerry Lalrinzuala made contact from behind. Courage Pekuson took responsibility and went low to Karanjit’s right – but the keeper had guessed early and made a fine save.
Jackichand Singh slipped in Baldvinsson and his first-time shot was brilliantly saved by Karanjit. But CK Vineeth simply couldn’t sort his feet out to pounce on the chance. Play shifted immediately to the other end where Jaime Gavilan’s low shot took a wicked deflection, however goalkeeper Paul Rachubka still saved it on his left.
Five minutes later, Baldvinsson was set up inside the box by Wes Brown’s cushioned header and his volley was headed for the top corner, only for Karanjit’s fingertips which got in the way yet again. The goalkeeper was an easy choice for Hero of the Match.
Rachubka at the other end was also good when called upon making a 92nd minute save to keep his team in the season. Gregory Nelson’s stinging effort was touched onto the post by him as the game ended with both custodians making vital contributions.
The first half was defined by two chances – one gloriously saved due to a defensive reaction and the other inexplicably missed. It was Berbatov with the first of these two when he was lingering outside the box during a corner and the ball looped to him at an inviting height. The Bulgarian – known for his impeccable technique – took a first-time volley which would have hit the back of the net had it not been for Dhanpal Ganesh’s last-ditch header to block it.
Jeje Lalpekhlua had the second. Rene Mihelic had broken forward and slipped in the Indian striker, whose first touch was perfect and set him up for a one-on-one chance against Paul Rachubka, but his left-footed low shot was just wide. It was a chance made in heaven for the striker.