Kolkata: Kerala Blasters FC picked up its first point of the tournament when it held a half-strength Atletico de Kolkata to a 1-1 draw in an Indian Super League match at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday.
Baljit Singh Sahni put his name on the scorers’ list for the first time with a fine goal to put the host ahead but the resolute Blasters restored parity with a spectacular contribution from Canadian striker Iain Hume.
Atletico Kolkata continues to top the league standings. The city outfit showed good coordination in crisis and salvaged one crucial point to remain unbeaten with 11 points from five outings.
The visitor, which enjoyed a greater share of ball possession, failed to take advantage of the host’s weakness — Kolkata was crippled by injuries and suspensions — four-match suspension of its Spanish coach Antonio Habas and two-match ban of its Ethiopian striker Fikru Lemessa.
The result nevertheless brought relief to the Kerala Blasters camp fetching it its first point after two successive loses.
Atletico Kolkata started well and the opening goal spoke much about its intention. Joffre Matteu filled up for the injured Luis Garcia, and took up the creative role in the middle. Timing his run to perfection, the Spanish winger tore into the Blasters’ defence and essayed a neat back-centre.
Cavin Lobo, the immediate recipient inside the visitor’s box, played a nice dummy releasing the onrushing Borja Fernandes. The former Real Madrid medio flicked it on to an unmarked Baljit, whose booming drive from the top of the box gave the towering David James in the Blasters’ goal no chance.
Coming in for Lemessa, Arnal Llibert could not do much in the Kolkata attack and looked thoroughly neutralised by the Blasters’ defence.
Later Joffre Mateu fumbled a clear scoring opportunity when he was well clear of the Blasters’ defence in the 35th minute. The Spaniard delayed his attempt allowing Blasters’ French defender Cedric Hengbert to salvage the situation and keep the match within the visitor’s grasp.
The host rued Matteu’s miss in the 41st minute when Blasters found the equaliser through Iain Hume. With his team desperately looking for a point, the Canadian striker snatched the opportunity playing a one-two-one with Milagres Gonzalves and then scoring.
The second session was placid with the host forsaking its attacking instinct and focussing more on playing safe. Baljit Sahni could well have added one more to his tally but the crosspiece blocked his 53rd minute effort much to the relief of the visitor.
The result: Atletico de Kolkata 1 (Baljit Singh Sahni 22) drew with Kerala Blasters FC 1 (Iain Hume 41).