Chennaiyin FC hold Jamshedpur FC to a 1-1 draw in a crucial Indian Super League encounter on Sunday evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Wellington Priori scored the opening goal for the visitors but Mohammed Rafi equalised in the 88th minute for the Super Machans.
John Gregory was forced to make two changes to the team that won away at FC Goa following the suspensions to Dhanpal Ganesh and Gregory Nelson. In came Bikramjit Singh and Jaime Gavilan.
For Jamshedpur FC, Sumeet Passi made his first start of the season up top while Farukh Chaudhary and Trindade Goncalves also came into the starting XI. Izu Azuka, Bikash Jairu and Ashim Biswas dropped to the bench.
Considering the stakes involved, the match was understandably cagey at the beginning. Jamshedpur were content to sit and employ high-pressing to force errors from the home side. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, were finding it tough to thread passes through a well-organised midfield of Jamshedpur.
Apart from one instance early on when Raphael Augusto got past Raju Yumnam and forayed into the box but saw his cut back snuffed out by Tiri, there weren't many clear-cut chances for either team.
The next chance of note came in the 16th minute when a wonderful backheel from Gavilan afforded shooting space for Raphael outside the area. But the Brazilian's effort did not trouble Paul in goal.
The visitors then had a glorious chance to score when Jerry Mawihminghthanga got the better of Jerry Lalrinzuala on the right wing and whipped in a cross which Farukh failed to direct into the net from point-blank range, much to the dismay of the Jamshedpur bench.
But the Men of Steel came up with a goal just past the hour mark when a hopeful long free-kick into the box was headed out by Inigo Calderon. But the ball lobbed up towards Wellington Priori who sized up the flight of the ball and lashed a right-footed volley into the far bottom corner past a flailing Karanjit to stun the home team.
Chennaiyin, in a bid to gain more width in their attacking game, switched Jaime Gavilan from the right flank to the left but they did not gain fruition as the only chance of note for them before the half-time break was when Bikramjit found some space from the edge of the box. But his shot was way wide.
Neither side many any change to their team at the start of the second half and as expected, it was the home side who began the half with urgency in search of an equaliser.
Chances were at a premium though with Jamshedpur sitting deep. However, Raphael Augusto had a great chance in the 54th minute when Bikey's lazy clearance went straight to him. Raphael entered the penalty box but his attempted curler was wide of the mark.
John Gregory responded by bringing on Anirudh Thapa and Rene Mihelic for Bikramjit Singh, who had a poor game, and Jaime Gavilan.
Mihelic almost made an impact two minutes later when he chipped a through-ball into the box for Jeje to run on to. But the striker's side-footed volley lacked the conviction to beat Paul. From the resultant corner, Mailson Alves headed an effort towards the far post but it was cleared away.
The home side ramped up the pressure, with the game being predominantly played in the Jamshedpur FC. Gregory played his final card in the 77th minute when he brought on striker Mohammed Rafi for winger Francisco Fernandes.
Steve Coppell's men had withdrawn deep into their own half and none of the high-pressing from the first half was evident. But while it allowed Chennaiyin FC to knock the ball around, they were unable to create a solid opening as the game wore on.
There were huge shouts for handball from Chennaiyin FC players when Inigo Calderon's cross appeared to strike a Jamshedpur player's arm but the referee waved away the appeals.
However, the goal did come for Chennaiyin FC in the 88th minute when Mihelic won a corner down the right side. His delivery was met by Mohammed Rafi at the far post and the striker sent a looping header into the goal. But the culprit behind the goal was Subrata Paul who had come haring for the corner but failed to get anywhere near it and ended up being stranded.
Chennaiyin even had a chance to snatch a winner at the death when Mihelic floated in a freekick which was almost met by Sereno at full stretch. But it was not to be as the sides split vital points in the race for the playoff spots.