Coimbatore: Neroca FC came back strongly from a two-goal deficit to register a 2-2 draw against defending champions Chennai City FC in I-League 2019-20 at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Saturday. Following the draw, Chennai City remain seventh on the table with five points and Neroca FC stay one place below with four points.
Chennai City FC started the game on a positive note by dominating the possession right from the start. They started with an unchanged line-up from the match against Aizawl FC as the trio of Fito, Pedro Manzi and Sandro were unavailable for the game.
After launching attacks relentlessly on Neroca goal for the first 25 minutes, Katsumi Yusa was fouled by a Neroca defender inside the box and Chennai were awarded a penalty and a golden chance to go ahead.
In the 26th minute, Katsumi Yusa stepped up to take the penalty and converted with finesse as Chennai went into the lead. With the lead, Chennai gew in confidence and just six minutes later, they brough up their second. Chennai showcased a beautiful build-up play from the back and an inch-perfect Jockson Dhas cross into the box found Mashoor Shereef, who headed the ball in to double the home team's lead.
With Chennai leading 2-0, Neroca were made to chase the game. Both coaches made some changes within the first half as Neroca brought on Gaty Kouami on for his compatriot Yawo Zico. Chennai coach Akbar Nawas brought in Ranjeet Singh for young Bijay Chhetri.
Neroca began their comeback in the stoppage time of the first half just when it looked like Chennai City FC were poised to go into the second half with a two-goal lead. 19-year-old midfielder Khaiminthang Lhungdim scored a header in the third minute of injury time to get one back for Neroca FC. The score at half-time stood at 2-1 in favour of Chennai City FC.
The play resumed and Neroca ramped up the pressure on Chennai. Even after playing a more pressing game Neroca weren't able to break the home team's defence but a careless mistake by the Chennai defence lead to a foul inside the box on Boubacar Diarra and the visitors got a penalty. Diarra stepped up for the penalty himself and levelled the scoreline in the 65th minute.
After losing their lead, Chennai switched gears but were unable to find a way past the Neroca captain and keeper Marvin Devon Phillip. In the 82nd minute, Chennai launched a counter-attack and a perfect cross from the right ended at Katsumi's feet but he failed to control the ball and the chance went begging.
A few moments later, Katsumi again found himself one-on-one with Phillip but the keeper made a big save and helped his team get an important point from the away fixture.