An entertaining clash here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium saw NorthEast United FC come back from a goal down twice to head back from a tough away fixture with a valuable point from a 2-2 draw. The Marco Materazzi led hosts have reasons to feel aggrieved though, as poor refereeing seemingly affected Chennai's chances for a second game in a row.
Chennai started the game knowing that a win would take them above Atletico de Kolkata to the summit of the ISL table. Marco Materazzi kept himself in the midfield anchor's role, but was forced into two changes. Goalkeeper Shilton Paul's suspension meant Gennaro Bracigliano came in between the sticks, and that meant Jean Eudes Maurice couldn't start to fulfill the squad quota. That meant another start for Jeje Lalpekhlua alongside John Mendoza up front.
For the NorthEast side, Seimeinlen Doungel came into the starting eleven in place of Durga Boro.
The start to the game was rather subdued with the first 15 minutes seeing neither side create a chance of note. The game sprung to life just after a quarter of an hour when some crisp passing between Harmanjot Khabra, Elano and John Mendoza set the Brazilian up for a left footed shot which forced a save from TP Rehenesh.
There was a lull from then until the 27th minute when some neat play in midfield put Denson Devadas through on the left side. The Kerala man put in a cross which was met by Elano, who out-jumped Joan Capdevila and put the ball beyond the reach of Rehenesh for his seventh goal of the tournament.
Chennai then looked to pile the pressure on the Highlanders but nothing materialized in the final third for the home side.
Seemingly against the run of play though, NorthEast managed an equalizer. A long ball forward from Miguel Garcia caused uncertainty between Mikael Silvestre and Bernard Mendy, and James Keene latched on to head it onto Doungel who marked his first appearance in the league with a sweet left footed strike.
Chennai looked to hit back immediately, and straight from the restart, John Mendoza breezed through the NorthEast right flank, and forced Rehenesh into a smart save.
A wild effort from Materazzi was all the remaining notable action of a rather engaging first half.
A couple of minutes after the restart, a foul from Dhanchandra Singh on Doungel gave NorthEast a free kick in a dangerous position, but Felipe blasted over. NorthEast were in the ascendancy through the initial stages of the first half.
The home side looked rather flat and looked to Elano for some inspiration. He nearly provided that with a burst from midfield ending with a shot that stung Rehenesh's palms.
Jean Eudes Maurice replaced Mendoza on the hour mark, and shortly afterwards, Jeje was replaced by Balwant Singh. The changes seemed warranted at the stage as it seemed NorthEast were the only side on the pitch with attacking intent.
Maurice nearly justified his substitution five minutes later but sent his header wide after a looping cross from Dhanachandra. The Haitian seemed to infuse some much needed energy and didn't give the NorthEast defenders any time on the ball.
In the 73rd minute, there was a moment of controversy as Joan Capdevila's under hit back pass was pounced upon by Balwant Singh, and after he pushed the ball past Rehenesh, there was contact between the two, but the referee waved away Chennai's appeals for a penalty, and signaled for a NorthEast free kick instead.
The Chennai crowd were wound up and that showed in the way they reacted to Elano's second of the night. It was a sublime finish from the Brazilian, as he took the ball past three NorthEast defenders before curling a shot which went through Miguel's legs and out of Rehenesh's reach.
The atmosphere was heating up, and a skirmish between Elano and Felipe resulted in the Brazilian being booked. Aiborlang Khongjee was rather agitated at Elano's tackle, and flung his arm out which earned him a booking as well.
Then, a moment of absolute quality from Koke resulted in NorthEast getting their second equalizer of the game. A cross from the right caused confusion in the Chennai rearguard, and Gouramangi Singh and Bernard Mendy went for the same ball, which meant that the Indian miscued his header straight to Koke, who rifled a brilliant volley past Bracigliano.
As three minutes of stoppage time were signaled, a shot from Koke was blocked into the path of Do Dong-hyun whose shot was athletically blocked by Mendy.
Just before the final whistle, Koke had an effort from 25 yards which Bracigliano saw wide of the post.Published 08 Nov 2014, 21:09 IST