Defending champions Chennaiyin FC and Atletico de Kolkata played out a highly-entertaining 2-2 draw in their campaign opening match in the Indian Super League football here today.
In a fast-paced match at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, ATK took the lead in 59th minute through Sameehg Doutie but Chennaiyin struck back soon with goals from Jayesh Rana (66th) and Hans Mulder (70th) before the home side restored parity through Ian Hume who scored from the spot in the 86th minute.
After a barren first half, both sides pressed for goals with open and attacking game and four goals were scored in the second session.
With two goals in the space of four minutes, it looked like that the Chennaiyin would tame the ATK at the latter’s den but somehow the home side found the equaliser with a penalty coming in their way which Hume converted.
Jerry Lalrinzuala committed a foul inside the box, bringing Sameehg Doutie down. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Hume stepped up to convert the penalty. The keeper dived to the right side but failed to get enough behind the ball to make the save.
ATK were the better side with more possession and more shots at the opposition goal but their forwards, including marquee player Helder Postiga and Hume himself, were unable to find the Chennaiyin net.
Luck also favoured Chennaiyin as their second goal was through a deflection from an ATK defender off a harmless-looking shot from Mulder.
Late in the match, Hume wasted at least two scoring chances before finding the Chennaiyin net from the spot.
For Chennaiyin, second half substitute Macpherlin Omagbemi missed a golden chance in the 83rd minute. Early in match, Chennaiyin marquee player John Arne Riise’s free kick deflected from a defender and ricocheted from the crossbar.
The match got off to a pacey start and Chennaiyin FC came close to drawing first blood in eighth minute when a deflected Riise free-kick from the edge of ATK’s penalty box rattled the crossbar.
ATK responded with some neat passing and good buildup play without ever threatening Duwayne Kerr at Chennaiyin goal. Postiga nearly changed all that in the 20th minute when he directed Doutie’s cross from the right goalwards. Bernard Mendy though was having none of that as he closed down Postiga quickly and denied him a clear shot with a crucial block.
Chennaiyin then forced ATK keeper Debjit Majumder into a save courtesy of a Jeje Lalpekhlua shot from distance two minutes later.
Javi Lara started to influence the game for ATK much more past the half hour mark but was kept quiet by Mehrajuddin Wadoo and a well organised Chennai defence that kept denying the home side any clear cut chances on goal.
Chennaiyin could have taken the lead just before half-time through a lightning quick counter-attack after an ATK free-kick broke favourably for the visitors. Jeje carried the ball forward with speed before passing to Rane who failed to find the all-important final ball, making 0-0 at the break.
The second half began with some confusion at the back for Chennaiyin, which the hosts almost capitalised on. A last ditch tackle by Riise saved the visitor’s blushes and ensured they were not trailing within a minute of the restart.
ATK eventually made the breakthrough in the 59th minute after a delightful ball over Chennaiyin’s defence found Doutie the space on the right. The South-African winger controlled the ball with a superb first touch before and slotting it past Kerr into the goal to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Chennaiyin were not behind for long, however, as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser. They scored the leveller in the 66th minute when an attempted shot by Jeje found its way to Rane, who did the needful to make it 1-1.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts four minutes later when Hans Mulder unleashed a powerful shot from close range that took a wicked deflection from a defender and crept past Majumder into the goal to make it 2-1 for Chennaiyin.
Hume could have equalised for ATK in the 74th minute after a cross from the left found its way to the Canadian striker in the far post. ATK top-scorer from last year failed to hit the target, however, as their search for an equaliser continued with 15 minutes to spare.
Chennaiyin Substitute Dudu should have put the game beyond ATK’s reach seven minutes from time when he blazed over a Rane cross from near the six-yard box. They were made to pay for the miss three minutes later after substitute Lalrinzuala was punished for a foul on Doutie inside the penalty box.
Hume stepped up to the spot and shot low to Kerr’s right to make it 2-2 as both sides shared the spoils after a thrilling match ended all square.