ISL 2017: Chennai win by solitary goal and Kerela play out another draw

Chennai Vs. Pune :
 
Chennaiyin FC got the better of FC Pune City by a solitary goal in an Indian Super League clash to move to the second spot on Sunday.
 
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.
 
It looked like both sides would settle for a point each but there was a twist in the tale. With just eight minutes left for the final whistle, Sereno gave Chennaiyin FC the lead.
 
The defender rose above everyone else to thump Gavilan Martinez’s corner past the FC Pune City goalkeeper.
 
Kerela Vs. Mumbai
 
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 here today.
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.
 
Squeezed between these two chances was Mumbai City’s only meaningful attempt on goal when Rafa Jorda headed Abinash Ruidas’ cross straight to the keeper.
Berbatov, who had done most of the passing for the Blasters, had his own attempt when his header from a corner flew straight to Amrinder at the stroke of half-time.
 
The home team started the second half just like the first when Pekuson blasted his shot over from a tight angle and so did Vineeth when Lalruatthara’s cross found him at the far post.
Balwant had another chance as the game opened up in the last 10 minutes, but his first-time shot from a clever flick in the box was scuffed and petered out of play.
 
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.

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