Bambolim (Goa), Nov 26 (IANS) Substitute Idrissa Sylla’s 90th minute goal helped NorthEast United deny Kerala Blasters a win as the latter squandered a two-goal advantage, and the Indian Super League match ended in 2-2 draw on Thursday.
Kerala led 2-0 at half time but NorthEast cut the deficit down to one goal soon after the start of the second half before the late equaliser at the GMC Stadium.
Goals from Sergio Cidoncha (5th minute) and Gary Hooper (45th) gave Kerala a first-half lead. But Kwesi Appiah (51st) halved the deficit before Sylla’s late equaliser (90th) in injury time ensured a point for the Highlanders.
After a minute’s silence to honour Diego Maradona, Kerala got off to a dream start with Cidoncha heading in a Seityasen free-kick in the 5th minute. Sahal Abdul Samad’s absence had meant that Cidoncha was playing higher up and that strategy worked for Kerala in the early exchanges of the game.
Kerala kept attacking the NorthEast area and in the 23rd minute, Hooper fluffed a sitter, failing to keep the ball down and slot it into the empty net after a one-two with Cidoncha left the NorthEast goalkeeper in no-man’s land.
Both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances until the end of the first half until an offensive move from Kerala ended with the referee pointing to the spot. Rakesh Pradhan was rather harshly adjudged to have slashed Lalthathanga Khawlhring down. Hooper fired the resulting penalty straight down the middle. NorthEast goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury managed to get a foot to it, but the touch wasn’t enough to keep the ball out.
NorthEast came out all guns blazing in the second-half and were soon rewarded for their intent. Some poor defending by Kerala allowed Appiah to score from close range. He had the chance to score his second when NorthEast were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute. The Ghanian tried to find Lalengmawia, but the latter was brought down in the box by Jessel Carneiro. Appiah stepped up to take the penalty but his spot-kick hit the crossbar before ricocheting out.
Minutes after his miss, Appiah was replaced by Guinean forward Sylla who would go on to have a major influence on the game. Nus’ side kept knocking on the door and were soon rewarded for their efforts. Sylla missed a chance to draw level in the 83rd minute when he directed a header over the bar. But he made up for that in injury time, superbly controlling a long ball from Gurjinder Kumar with his chest before powering home past Kerala keeper Albino Gomes. In the end, the draw ensured that NorthEast remained unbeaten after two games.