Chennaiyin FC and Atletico de Kolkata’s chances of semi-finals qualification were hanging in the balance after a 1-1 draw in Hero Indian Super League clash at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, on Sunday.
Atletico de Kolkata enjoyed a first-half lead through marquee player Helder Postiga (39th minute) but Chennaiyin FC were stronger in the second session and got the equaliser through Davide Succi in the 77th minute. The draw left Chennaiyin FC in sixth spot with 14 points from 11 matches while Atletico de Kolkata moved to the third spot with 15 points from 11 matches, the same as FC Pune City and Kerala Blasters. ATK (plus one), however, have a better goal difference than Pune (minus one) and Kerala (minus four).
Atletico de Kolkata coach Jose Molina surprised all with his starting line-up as he opted to start with Juan Belencoso, leaving Canadian striker and highest goal-scorer in the ISL, Iain Hume, on the bench. Hume’s absence did not hurt Atletico in the first session as they continued with their attacking ways right from kick-off. The visitors should have been ahead in the third minute itself when a brilliant cross from Lalrindika Ralte towards the far post saw Postiga rise highest but his angled header hit the sidebar and bounced back into play.
It was a lucky escape for Chennaiyin FC, who took time to settle down and soon enough they had a chance to surge ahead. Some brilliant work from Raphael Augusto saw the Brazilian flick the ball for Jeje Lalpekhlua who chested it down for Hans Mulder. The Dutch midfielder did well to time his half-volley to perfection but Atletico de Kolkata goalkeeper Debjit Majumder did well to parry the ball away.
Chennaiyin FC have been disciplined at home and it looked like they had done enough to guard their goal in the opening 45 minutes until Postiga struck with six minutes left. Javi Lara and Pritam Kotal showed some fine understanding on the right while interplaying and Kotal sent a beautiful cross inside the danger zone where Postiga again rose high to meet the ball and head it past goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.
Chennaiyin FC were much improved in the second session and raided the rival citadel time and again. Italian striker Davide Succi was at the end of most chances created by the hosts but lacked sharpness. In the 56th minute, he was put clear by Zakeer Mundampara on the right but Succi’s first touch took the ball away, forcing him to miss the target by a whisker from a narrow angle. Succi had another chance in the 71st minute when all alone inside the box after being at the right end of a through ball. The Italian drew out the goalkeeper and cut past him but his final shot only ended up hitting the side netting.
After two misses, Succi finally converted his third chance in the 77th minute, rising high to head a ball from Eli Sabia past a defender and goalkeeper on the ATK goal-line. Chennaiyin should have got all three points from this game but their strikers were wayward particularly in the second session when they had plenty of chances.