Chennai, February 9, 2020: Chennaiyin FC were held to a goalless draw at home against Bengaluru FC in the Hero Indian Super League here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday.
Thoi Singh was given his marching orders under contentious circumstances late on as CFC finished with ten men. The result means Chennaiyin stay in 5th place with 22 points with BFC in 3rd with 29 points, however the former has played a game lesser than Mumbai City FC in 4th place who are on 26 points. In all fairness, the draw didn’t help either side in their respective pursuits – the top two places for BFC and the coveted fourth spot for CFC.
A suspension for Anirudh Thapa and injury to Germanpreet Singh meant the Afghan Masih Saighani came into midfield alongside the versatile Edwin Vanspaul as Thoi began on the right with Andre Schembri missing out. As for BFC, Sunil Chhetri was on the bench with a hamstring strain as Rahul Bheke returned to the starting lineup.
The opening ten minutes saw both sides take a cautious approach to the game as CFC pressed BFC high up the pitch with Thoi winning the ball off Nishu Kumar twice, but referee Crystal John harshly deemed both instances to be fouls.
It was an intense tactical affair with both sides cancelling each other out for most part of the first period. Local lad Edwin Vanspaul was running the show in midfield for the hosts as creator-in-chief Rafael Crivellaro alongside Nerijus Valskis and Lallianzuala Chhangte tried to make inroads into a stubborn BFC defence.
Bengaluru striker Deshorn Brown came close at the other end with a strike from distance that went just wide of Kaith’s post. The Himachal Pradesh goalkeeper was again forced into a save by Ashique Kuruniyan minutes later, parrying the strike away at the near post.
Past the half hour mark, CFC had a big chance to test Gurpreet Singh in the visitors’ goal. Chhangte was found at the edge of the box by Rafael, but instead of squaring it to the unmarked Valskis, he went for goal and skied it over the bar.
The second half presumed with both sides continuing their sparring match. Five minutes in, Valskis drew a save out of Gurpreet after being set up by Rafael after some good work by Chhangte on the left.
A huge penalty claim ensued shortly after when Chhangte was denied by a combination Suresh Wangjam and Albert Serran inside the BFC box. And Serran seemed to have handled the ball while trying to shield it away from the Mizo speedster, however the referee waved it away.
Just past the hour mark, Masih made way for Maltese forward Schembri, who injected energy into the ranks as Thoi moved alongside Edwin in midfield.
And with the last ten minutes approaching, CFC had the best chance of the half when Schembri almost broke the deadlock. Crivellaro’s inch-perfect threaded pass for Schembri set the latter through on goal, but his shot was saved well by Gurpreet at point-blank range as Bheke cleared it off the line.
The game was end-to-end at this point with BFC substitute Semboi Haokip hitting the post at the other after Juanan’s long pass had found him in space.
And then with two minutes of regulation time to go, Thoi was harshly sent off for a second yellow card, both bookings questionably handed out by the referee.
There were five minutes added on after normal time as BFC pushed for the winner but CFC held on for an important point.