Kochi: Chennaiyin FC eked out a goalless draw against Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) encounter here on Friday to inch closer to a play-off spot.
The Blasters are currently in fifth place with 25 points from 17 matches, just one point behind Jamshedpur FC, who have a game in hand. Chennaiyin FC are placed third after accumulating 29 points from 17 matches, 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 Singh's right. But the Chennaiyin goalkeeper had guessed early and made a fine save.
The 78th minute saw both teams create chances within seconds. Jackichand Singh slipped in Baldvinsson and his first-time shot was brilliantly saved by Karanjit. There was a rebound but C.K. 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 but 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. 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.
The second and the easier chance fell to Jeje Lalpekhlua. 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. Bikramjit Singh, Jackichand Singh and Vineeth all had strikes from distance but nothing troubled either goalkeepers too much.