Kochi: For once the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium appeared desolate, the cauldron that usually brims with the passion of the yellow faithful had worn a disturbing veil of remonstration. Threats of a boycott, in the wake of poor results and questionable tactics, were eventually out in plain sight. The usual bright coloured banners that pledged the ‘Manjappada’s’ support to the club had been replaced by two louder ones that read, ‘Supporters, Not Customers’ and ‘We Deserve Better’.
The crisis in Kerala Blasters’ season, pinned to the bottom half of the table with just eight points from nine matches and winless since the opening round, had been aggravated by their fans’ displeasure, which was unprecedented sighting at the venue that had averaged in excess of 20,000 every game since 2014. No more than 8,451 were in attendance, scattered across the 60,000-seater, on Tuesday as Kerala played out a dramatic 1-1 draw against Jamshedpur.
Seiminlen Doungel’s 77th minute equaliser earned Kerala their sixth draw of the season, after Carlos Calvo had put the visitors ahead in the 66th minute from a dubious penalty.
Under the circumstances Kerala had made a tenacious start to the game and true to their manager’s pre-match thoughts of being ‘effective’ they responded earnestly, and with vigour. The hosts took as many as three shots on target inside half-an-hour; Sahal denied by the crossbar and Doungel’s rebound effort cleared off the line by a vigilant Emerson Moura.
Sandesh Jhingan’s return after being dropped against Chennaiyin last week, albeit on the right side of the defence, so as to accommodate Lakic-Pesic and Anas as centre backs, appeared to balance their otherwise fidgety backline.
It however came with a consequence.
Tim Cahill’s bullish style had met its match in Anas, who kept a check on the veteran Australian for most part of the game, but was cast aside by the former Everton striker’s timely run that forced Dheeraj off his lines and resulted in a penalty.
The collision had seemingly took place outside the box but nevertheless, Carlos Calvo calmly netted the controversial opener.
Kerala’s desperation overwhelmed and they barged out in numbers. Following a melee in the box that saw a Cyril Kali overhead attempt blocked and Doungel denied on the line, again, the hosts had their equaliser. Doungel had sneaked in to score a rebound.
Dheeraj Singh had kept out substitute Farukh Choudhary and parried a Mario Blasco header right on the whistle as Kerala ensured a point.