Spanish goalkeeper Santana produced a superb penalty save in the injury time as Chennai City FC played out a goalless draw against hosts Minerva Punjab FC on Sunday to remain unbeaten in the Hero I-League in Chandigarh. The result takes Chennai to 18 points from eight games, thus restoring a four-point gap at the top of the league table, while Minerva stay at fifth with 12 points from the same number of completed games.
The match did not rise to any great heights though Chennai were the more dominant side particularly in the second half. Minerva, despite bolstering their attack with the return of the Japanese striker Yu Kuboki, who incidentally missed the penalty, also played out their second goalless draw of the season.
Besides Yu Kuboki, Bhaskar Roy also regained his position under the Minerva bar with Arshdeep who started in the last game getting back on the bench. For Chennai, Mashoor Shareif started in midfield in place of Pravitto Raju, who had started the last game.
Minerva had the first clear chance of the game within first 10 minutes when a Lancine Toure header went wide off a well thought out set-piece. A few minutes later, William Opoku cut in past two defenders and unleashed a right-footer bringing out a save from Chennai’s Spanish goalie Santana.
Chennai’s best effort of the first half hour was a Pedro Manzi strike from outside the box which was safely collected by Bhaskar Roy. Yu Kuboki then showed a first glimpse of his prowess in front of goal, when Njoku’s header off a Toure long ball played him on in the 34th minute, and with a defender on his shoulder, he came up with a clever tap with the intent of chipping the keeper. The ball dipped but still lobbed over the target.
Chennai had two chances in the last five minutes of the first half. First Nestor caught Minerva on the break and found Manzi inside the box whose strike was off target and then Nestor’s Spanish midfield mate Sandro played Charles inside the Minerva box and the burly midfielder’s strike after going past two defenders was thwarted by Bhaskar.
In the second half, Chennai gained dominance and Nestor and Manzi combined well to create several chances, however their finishing was not up to the mark.
At the end, Minerva had a golden opportunity to end Chennai’s unbeaten run, when referee Satosh Baskaran awarded them a penalty for a foul inside the box with only five minutes of added time left.
Kuboki stepped up to take it but a weak effort brought about a regulation save by keeper Santana.
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