Kochi: Messi Bouli scored a brace as Kerala Blasters FC and Jamshedpur FC played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a Indian Super League 2019-20 clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.
It was late drama in yet another ISL match as Kerala Blasters stormed back from two goals down to hold the visitors to the draw. Kerala had the better chances to score early on but it was a Piti (38') penalty that broke the deadlock. CK Vineeth (72') added the visitor's second before Messi Bouli scored a brace (75', 87') to pull his team level.
With the spoils being shared, Jamshedpur are third with 13 points from eight matches while Kerala sit seventh with seven points.
Mario Arques, who was deemed fit to start after a lengthy layoff, nearly got Kerala Blasters off to a splendid start. Seityasen Singh nicked the ball on the right flank and cut inside to deliver a threatening cross that was headed straight at the goalkeeper by the Spanish midfielder at the far post.
The visitors were careless in possession early in the game, with Jeakson stealing the ball off Aitor Monroy to set Messi free, but the Cameroonian striker couldn't keep his shot on target.
With the game nearing half-time, the referee penalised Vlatko Drobarov's manhandling of Tiri inside the box from a corner conceded by a Seityasen backpass. Piti calmly slotted home from 12 yards out to put Jamshedpur ahead.
There was a shoutout for penalty for Kerala as well just before half time when Messi went down in the box with a slight tuck on the shirt from behind but the referee waived it off.
Kerala spurned a well-worked chance to equalise after the restart. Seityasen drilled a low cross into the box from the right flank for Arques, who failed to connect at the near post. The loose ball fell perfectly for Sergio Cidoncha whose powerful strike from inside the box flew wide.
Sahal Abdul Samad's introduction in place of Cidoncha in the second half gave the hosts a much-needed spark in midfield. In the 66th minute, the Kerala-born midfielder danced his way past the Jamshedpur defence before getting a shot away. Tiri was well-positioned to block the strike and keep his team in the lead.
Then Antonio Iriondo went for a substitution that took everyone by surprise as Piti was substituted for CK Vineeth and it would turn out to be a substitution that changed the game.
Jamshedpur inititally reaped the benefits of the change as Vineeth, on his return to Kochi, struck Jamshedpur's second. The forward passed to Farukh Chaudhary on his right before making a run towards his near post. Farukh delivered a perfect through pass back to him and the striker drilled the ball home.
But with Piti off the pitch, Kerala Blasters took control of the possession and started pressing high up the field as an emergency response. In the 75th minute, Sahal produced a delightful chip from inside the box for Messi on the far post, who nodded in to bring the home team back into the match.
With three minutes left for the end of regulation time, Kerala found an equaliser to end Jamshedpur's hopes of taking the top spot. Seityasen dribbled into the box and was brought down by Robin Gurung for which Kerala were awarded a penalty. Messi stepped up and shot a rocket into the top right corner to complete his brace and a late comeback for Kerala.