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Sports News of Saturday, 28 December 2019


Controversial Asamoah Gyan penalty holds Kerala Blasters

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A controversial penalty converted by Asamoah Gyan helped NorthEast United hold Kerala Blasters to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

Blasters took the lead from a spot-kick of their own in the 43rd minute which Bartholomew Ogbeche converted. The referee then wrongly punished Seityasen Singh for a header inside the box and Gyan made no mistake from 12 yards in the 50th minute.

There was good news for both sets of fans when the teams were announced. Sahal Abdul Samad was given his fifth start of the season and Gianni Zuiverloon and Rahul KP recovered from their knocks to feature on the bench. Asamoah Gyan returned to lead the line for NorthEast and Lalengmawia screened the defence in place of a suspended Jose Leudo.

The first big chance fell to Prasanth Karuthadathkuni who had drifted into the centre to receive a pass in the eighth minute. The Kerala winger fired a half-volley from outside the box that forced a reflex save off NorthEast keeper Subhasish Roy.

The home side had most of the ball in the early stages but couldn't do much with it in the attacking third. The visitors were content to sit back and counter and Gyan threatened from one such foray forward in the 20th minute. Lalthathanga Khawlhring was onto Mohammed Rakip's misplaced pass in a flash and he fed Gyan through on goal but the Ghanaian striker skied his effort from inside the box.

With the scores tied and teams struggling to better one another, Blasters were handed another chance to test the keeper when Kai Heerings brought down Bartholomew Ogbeche a metre outside the box. Mario Arques' dipping delivery was punched away for a corner by Roy.

With less than 10 minutes left for the half-time break, Raphael Messi replaced Sahal as Eelco Schattorie demanded more from his team. Incidentally, the hosts went ahead four minutes later.

Ogbeche chased Arques' lob in behind the opposition's backline and Roy, who rushed off his line, was deemed to have clattered the striker inside the box. The former PSG striker coolly slotted home what was a soft penalty decision from 12 yards.

It took just five minutes for the referee to hog the limelight after the restart. Rakesh Pradhan's cross from the left hit Seityasen's head and the referee Rahul Gupta, unbeknownst to everyone inside the stadium, deemed it to be a handball and pointed to the spot. Gyan converted the penalty with ease, leaving the Blasters bench bemused and frustrated.

The match evened up in midfield as both teams sought a match-winning goal. Redeem Tlang had a huge chance to make the difference after he was fed into the box by Gyan. The forward had made a brilliant run but his shot flew inches wide of TP Rehenesh's goal.

Neither team was able to cause trouble in their respective final thirds as the clock moved closer to full-time. The hosts extended their winless run to nine games and are ninth on the table, with bottom-placed Hyderabad FC up next at home on January 5.

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