Chennaiyin halt Kerala Blasters’ winning streak in thrilling Southern Derby

Sahal Abdul Samad scored the opening goal of the match

Kerala Blasters’ five-game unbeaten streak came to a halt as Chennaiyin held them to a 1-1 draw in the last game of matchday 11 of the 2022-23 Indian Super League season. Sahal Abdul Samad’s strike gave the Tuskers a slender lead before Vincy Barretto brought the Marina Machans back into the game.

Despite beating NorthEast United 7-3 in the last match, Chennaiyin head coach Thomas Brdaric made four changes to his starting XI. Ajith Kumar, Vafa Hakhamaneshi, Vincy and Sourav Das featured from the start, at the expense of Mohammed Rafique, Gurmukh Singh, Nasser El Kheyati and Rahim Ali respectively.

On the other hand, Kerala Blasters manager Ivan Vukomanovic is known to prefer consistency, and hence, he did not make any unnecessary changes to the team. The starting XI which won 3-2 against Bengaluru featured again in this match.

Chennaiyin had the better start, but it took them 12 minutes to create the first chance as the Tuskers’ defence was resolute. After receiving a pass from Julius Duker, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul laid the ball towards Barretto’s feet, but the former Kerala Blasters player could not get a proper connection in his attempt.

Vukomanovic’s team got their first opportunity in the 21st minute from a free-kick. The team’s set-piece specialist, Adrian Luna had a good attempt on target, but the Marina Machans’ custodian, Debjit Majumder somehow parried it away for a corner.

The pressure Tuskers created over the last few minutes paid off as the first goal eventually came in the 23rd minute of the game. Ivan Kaliyuzhnyi made a darting run before finding Samad with a delightful pass, and the latter did the rest by beating Debjit with a subtle chip.

Brdaric’s team got the chance to equalize in the 35th minute when Aakash Sangwan found Vafa Hakhamaneshi with a corner. However, the Iranian centre-back could not keep his header on target.

However, it was Chennaiyin who created better chances after the scoreline went 1-0, and their hard work did not go in vain as the equalizer arrived in the 48th minute. After finding himself in space, Ali pulled the trigger and while his shot was venomous, Vukomanovic’s goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill was up to the task. But unfortunately for the Tuskers, the ricochet fell for Barretto, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net.

Having lost their lead, Kerala Blasters reverted to their usual attacking style. Sandeep Singh launched a good cross into the box in the 54th minute, but none of the strikers in yellow could meet it. Seven minutes later, Samad wriggled his way past his marker before launching a shot, but it did not trouble Debjit.

Nasser El Khayati could not showcase his usual magic in this match

Nasser El Khayati could not showcase his usual magic in this match

Chennaiyin also did their best to not settle for a point and secure all three. Brdaric introduced his most skilful asset, El Khayati in the 70th minute, and the Dutch midfielder could have had an instantaneous impact. He launched a cross into the box, but it was away from Petar Sliskovic.

In the 88th minute, a Kerala Blasters substitute could have won the game for his team. He sent in a cross for Apostolos Giannou, and the Australian striker should have been able to meet it had Debjit not made a crucial outing to gather it before anyone else could. It turned out to be the last major chance of the match.

With this draw, Chennaiyin remains in 7th place with 14 points from 10 matches. They will now take on Mumbai City on Saturday, while Kerala Blasters, who climbed to 4th position with 19 points, will be up against Odisha on Boxing Day.