Chennai: Sandesh Jhingan went from zero to hero as he set up CK Vineeth’s 94th minute equaliser with a sharp cross, minutes after he conceded a debatable penalty to allow Rene Mihelic to give Chennaiyin the lead in their Indian Super League match at the Marina Arena in Chennai on Friday. The match ended 1-1.
The referee pointed to the spot in the 87th minute after the ball seemed to hit Jhingan near his underarm as he blocked a shot from close range. Mihelic made no mistake, arranging the ball to the Paul Rachubka’s right after a tiny stutter in his run-up.
Until the deadlock was broken, the Blasters had probably gone closest in the second half when Courage Pekuson turned his man and made space for himself to take a stinging shot which Karanjit Singh expertly palmed away. Rachubka had to make a save of his own at the other end from Gregory Nelson’s shot. The save was fitting as it came shortly after he tripped in front of Jeje Lalpekhlua, almost allowing the striker to score. But Jeje stuck a leg out and a foul was given, saving Rachubka’s blushes.
It was almost disaster for Chennaiyin soon after the second half started when Lalruatthara’s cross deflected off Mailson Alves’ head and almost beat his own keeper. But minutes later they created a chance, with Anirudh Thapa, Lalpekhlua and Raphael Augusto combining to set up Francis Fernandes who should have done better than to shoot straight at the keeper.
It was a first half of few chances as Kerala Blasters mostly played on the counter and Chennaiyin in their quick attacking style, with a lot of dominance in the final third. They had 60% of the ball in the opening 45 minutes, but the best chance of the half fell to Jackichand Singh. It was a blistering counter-attack which saw CK Vineeth release Courage Pekuson. With defenders chasing these two attackers, Jackichand was left all alone on the right win. Pekuson found him and the Indian’s first touch set him up for a shot which skewed off the outside of his boot and flew into the stands.
Chennaiyin had a few opportunities as well. The first one came as early as the third minute but Jude Nworuh was adjudged offside despite being in line. That said, he would be glad to see the flag go up, considering his first time attempt from a tight angle was largely forgettable. Some flying tackles and these half chances apart, both teams were bracing for a more open second half.
The result keeps Chennaiyin in first spot. They have 13 points from seven games. That’s point more than FC Goa (who have two games in hand) and Bengaluru FC. Blasters remain in seventh place with seven points from six matches.