Chennai: Defending champions Chennaiyin FC were held to a goalless draw by Kerala Blasters in the Southern derby of the Indian Super League (ISL) at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Saturday.
In a tale of two halves, Chennaiyin FC were the dominate side in the first session, creating plenty of chances but could not give finishing touches.
Kerala Blasters were the stronger of the two teams in the second session but couldn't keep their shots on target despite having the better chances.
The draw did neither of the teams any good. Chennaiyin FC occupy the fourth spot after their second consecutive draw with nine points from six matches, while Kerala Blasters continue their onward progress and they too now have nine points.
Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi made five changes to the team that drew against FC Pune City, opting to start with Bernard Mendy at the back at the expense of marquee player John Arne Riise. Karanjit Singh was back in goal to accommodate another international outfield player.
Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell continued with the same squad that won all three points against FC Goa but it didn't seem to work at the start as Chennaiyin FC enjoyed the edge in the first 45 minutes.
In the second minute itself, Chennaiyin FC could have taken the lead. Raphael Augusto won the ball in Kerala's own half and played it down for Dudu Omagbemi whose left-footer was nervously parried away by Kerala goalkeeper Sandip Nandy before a defender kicked it away for a corner.
Two minutes later, Kerala's defence was sloppy as Josu Prieto's back pass was closed down by Davide Succi but Aaron Hughes was on hand to clear the danger.
The best chance of the first half fell at the feet of Bernard Mendy. A cross from Baljit Sahni towards the far post found Mendy, who sidestepped Cedric Hengbart but his shot from close range ended up hitting the side netting.
Kerala Blasters did not have a single shot on goal in the first session and were much improved in the second session with eight shots, three of them on target.
Most of the threat came from Haitian international Kervens Belfort, who struck a majestic winner against FC Goa in the previous game.
His first attempt on goal was on the hour mark when Mohammad Rafi's header found Belfort but his first time shot was just wide of the mark. Belfort was again in the thick of action when Mohammed Rafique's cross from the right saw Belfort get ahead of Chennaiyin FC defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo but the effort missed the target by a whisker.