KOCHI:Leaving behind the sacking of head coach Peter Taylor, Kerala Blasters FC regrouped well enough, employed a new formation, dominated central midfield for much of the game, but still lacked the cutting edge in the final third as Chennaiyin FC took away a point from a cagey encounter on Saturday.
On an evening of thunderstorms at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which registered the lowest attendance (47,852) this season, the hosts arrested their four-match losing streak after Chris Dagnall’s header cancelled out rival skipper Elano’s first-half penalty strike. The Blasters then missed a penalty themselves before ending the match with 10 men.
Josue Prieto had a big opportunity to put his team 2-1 ahead in the 51st minute, but Chennaiyin keeper Karanjit Singh guessed right to push aside the Spaniard’s weak penalty. Interestingly, skipper Peter Ramage had to mediate between Prieto and Watt, who were engaged in a tussle for the ball to take the penalty after Ramage was fouled inside the box. Watt was furious after his teammate messed up the opportunity.
The Blasters were dealt a heavy blow in the 75th minute when Bruno Perone was shown a straight red for a wild attempt to stop Stiven Mendoza, his high boot catching the Colombian striker on the face. Hoping to make the man advantage count, Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi brought on an extra striker in Fikru Lemessa in place of defensive midfielder Manuele Blasi, but the hosts held on.
Earlier, KBFC caretaker coach Trevor Morgan put an extra man in defence in a narrow 4-4-2 system, with Sanchez Watt playing in the hole behind strikers Dagnall and Mohammad Rafi. The move, which saw the Blasters follow a formation different from 3-5-2 for the first time this season, also helped provide better support to holding midfielder Mehtab Hussain when Chennaiyin were in possession, with Joao Coimbra and Bruno Perone tracking back to close down gaps in central midfield.
Chennai skipper Elano failed to come close to being anywhere near as influential as usual. That also kept in check the nippy Mendoza, who once created space for a snap shot which was saved by keeper Stephen Bywater.
The visitors scored against the run of play off a penalty, awarded against Sandesh Jhingan for bringing down Mendoza. Elano accepted the chance, sending Bywater the wrong way with a low shot.
The hosts, desperate to rise from the bottom, equalised from the very first move of the second session. Dagnall burst in between a couple of defenders to bury a header off a cross from the left by Saumik Dey.