A controversial penalty by Asamoah Gyan helped NorthEast United draw with Kerala Blasters 1-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday. The home side took the lead in the Indian Super League (ISL) game in the 43rd minute with a spot-kick of their own, which was converted by Bartholomew Ogbeche.
The match referee then penalized Seitasen Singh wrongly for a header inside the box, which was converted by Gyan in the 50th minute.
Earlier, Sahal Abdul Samad made his fifth start in the season, with Gianni Zuiverloon and Rahul KP featuring on the bench. Gyan led the North East side, while Lalengmawia was in charge of the defence in place of Jose Leudo.
The first scoring opportunity came Prasanth Karuthadathkuni's way when he had drifted into the centre to receive the pass as early as in the eighth minute. However, the Kerala winger could only fire a half-volley, which was saved by the North East keeper Subhasish Roy.
The home side had greater ball possession in the first half, but failed to convert their chances. On the other hand, North East countered and had a chance to score in the 20th minute when Lalthathanga Khawlhring was onto Mohammed Rakip's misplaced pass. He fed Gyan through on goal but the striker skied his effort.
The Blasters then had another chance to get a goal when Kei Heerings brought down Ogbeche outside the box. In the 30th minute, Raphael Messi replaced Sahal in the XI as the home side looked out of sorts. They went ahead four minutes later.
Ogbeche chased Arques' lob with Roy rushing off his line. The striker sent in a goal from 12 yards off a soft penalty to help Kerala go 1-0 up. However, the joy did not last long as just five minutes later, the referee was in the limelight after Rakesh Pradhan's cross from left hit Seityasen. The referee termed it a handball, which Gyan converted even as the hosts were left unimpressed.
The match ended with both teams eyeing the match-winning goal. Redeem Tlang could have converted one after he was fed into the box by Gyan, but his shot fell wide of the goal.
Kerala Blasters will take on Hyderabad FC next on January 5.