Kerala Blasters were held to a 1-1 draw by Mumbai City in their third Indian Super League (ISL) game at the JLN Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. Mark Sifneos scored to give the home side a promising start but the visitors scored late in the game to even things out in Kochi.
Mark Sifneos replaced Iain Hume in the starting lineup for the home side as Rene Meulensteen tried to turn around his side's fortunes in front of goal.
Alexandre Guimaraes rang the changes for the visitors, bringing Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Davinder Singh and Rafa Jorda into the team in place of Raju Gaikwad, Marcio Rozario and Sanju Pradhan.
Kerala Blasters started the game on the front foot as expected and the midfielder Courage Pekuson had an early chance in the first few minutes of the game when Jackichand Singh squared the ball into his path. The Ghanaian dragged his effort wide of the far post but it was only just the beginning of a flurry of attacks by the home side.
CK Vineeth's corner-kick caused havoc inside the Mumbai box as Lakic-Pesic's flick found Sandesh Jhingan inside the box and it took a well-executed block by Davinder Singh to keep the skipper's shot from hitting the net.
The home side finally broke their hoodoo in front of goal and it was Dimitar Berbatov's through ball to release Rino Anto that did the trick. The right-back sent an accurate cross into the box to find an unmarked Mark Sifneos whose right footed shot sent the crowd into raptures.
Achille Emana cut open the entire Blasters defence with his through-ball into the path of Everton Santos but the forward's attempt to strike the ball towards Rachubka's goal was scuppered by a timely interception from Sandesh Jhingan.
Both goalkeepers had to be at their best as the game moved towards half-time. Amrinder Singh's outstretched dive to his left kept CK Vineeth's strong shot from finding the net after the forward beautifully controlled Jackichand's chip into the box. Rachubka did not have much to do throughout the half but did well to palm the ball away when Rafa Jorda headed the ball at goal from a sneaky cross into the box by Abinash Ruidas.
CK Vineeth could have easily scored a hat-trick but the striker's profligacy in front of goal hurt his chances of actually grabbing one on the night. Jackichand's surging run into the box from the right, left Ruidas in shambles and before the full-back could recover, the Indian winger dragged the ball back into the centre for Vineeth who blasted his shot into the stands.
At the other end, Rachubka, who was elected as the Fans' Player of the Month for November, pulled off a very good save with his legs to deflect Everton Santos' shot away from goal and to keep Kerala in the lead as the game moved past the hour-mark.
Mumbai City's gameplan was not working and Alexandre Guimaraes turned to substitute Thiago Santos for help as he replaced a disappointing Rafa Jorda in the 74th minute. Surprisingly and against the run of play, the visitors levelled the game just a minute later.
In a move that resembled Kerala's goal, Emana released Everton Santos to his right and the Brazilian sent an accurate cross into the centre of the box for Balwant to hit the net. The equaliser sent the home side into panic mode and CK Vineeth, who was already on a yellow from a late challenge earlier in the game, received his marching orders for simulation inside the box.
Kerala Blasters failed to get their rhythm back in the final minutes of the game as Mumbai City successfully held Rene Meulensteen's men to a third successive draw at home in ISL.