Kerala Blasters' winless run stretched to three games after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. A penalty decision that went against the hosts was the talking point of the game.
The hosts named star man Bartholomew Ogbeche on the bench and Raphael Messi was handed the opportunity to lead the line. They were further forced into two substitutions in the first half, as Jairo Rodriguez and Messi Bouli were taken off the field due to injuries.
The visitors too had their share of injury concerns. Aridane Santana was forced to be substituted off in the first half after a collision with Messi.
The injury-laden first half lacked free-flowing football and despite their marginal dominance, Kerala were unable to cause any sort of problem for the Odisha defence.
The first exciting bit of play in the game arrived in the 35th minute when India international Samad Sahal danced past three opposition players before being brought down in the box by Narayan Das. However, the referee waved play on, as a horrified Eelco Schattorie looked on in disbelief from the side-line.
The second half began exactly like the first concluded – passive football and purposeless possession spiced with the occasional half-chance rendered null by poor play in the final third.
However, Odisha were inches away from scoring in the 58th minute. Jerry Mawihmingthanga, who was unusually quiet throughout provided an inch-perfect cross to the far post for Nandha to hit first time. But the winger was unable to direct his shot towards goal and rattled the side-netting with his effort.
Kerala were handed a chance to walk away with a late winner in injury time. Prasanth whipped in a cross into the centre of the box for Ogbeche to head towards goal. But the marksman did well to cushion it to an unmarked Rahul who pulled the trigger. But Francisco Dorronsoro reacted in time to block the shot and keep his clean-sheet.
There will be more than mere discussions about the penalty that should have gone Kerala’s way but the scoreline otherwise reflects the game perfectly.