Navi Mumbai: The hopes of making it to the semi-finals of the second season of the Indian Super League (ISL) were all but shattered for visitors Kerala Blasters FC and hosts Mumbai City FC after the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the DY Patil Stadium here on Thursday.
Striker Antonio German scored the equaliser (89th minute) for Kerala much to the surprise of the home crowd before Spanish midfielder Juan Aguilera opened the scoring (25th) for the hosts.
With the draw, Mumbai are struggling in seventh in the standings with 13 points from 12 games, having won three, drawn four and lost five.
On the other hand, Kerala too are in the same spot with slim chances of making the play-offs. They remain at the bottom of the table with 12 points from 12 games, having lost six, won three and drawn three.
Marque-player-cum-coach Nicolas Anelka made four changes to Mumbai's starting XI and went in with a 4-4-2 combination for the crucial match, also excluding himself.
Singam Subash, Sony Norde, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai and Aitor Lopez got a start in place of Selim Benachour, Keegan Pereira and Rowilson Rodrigues, who had to be content on the bench.
The visitors made three changes and went in with a 4-2-3 combination. Sandip Nandy, the goalkeeper, replaced Stephen Bywater while Deepak Mandal and Joao Coimbra came in for Rahul Bheke and Cavin Lobo.
The game started on a positive note with the home side going on a full attacking mode with striker Sunil Chhetri and Norde taking on the initiative. Just five minutes into the match, Norde tried his luck with a shot from outside the box. But his powerful kick only managed to sail over the keeper.
The visitors looked weak in their defence as they let go a couple of balls from both wings but Mumbai failed to turn it into fruitful results. But Mumbai's constant push in the opposition box earned them their first goal.
Norde's corner-kick was punched away by Kerala goalkeeper Nandy. The ball fell for Aguilera whose shot from his weaker foot found the back of the net.
Soon after conceding the goal, Blasters failed to keep up the pace.
The visitors were passing the ball around well but were just not finding the end product. Forward Chris Dagnall made some good runs in behind the defenders but was not getting the services needed to complement his runs. The hosts held on quite well to go into break with 1-0 lead.
Mumbai started the second half with a positive mindset, aiming for an early equaliser.
Mehtab Hossain in the 56th minute crossed the ball into a crowded area where Sandesh Jhingan received it. He got to head the ball but failed to keep it on target.
Mumbai had a golden chance to score their second a few minutes from the final whistle when Chhetri threaded a good ball past a defender to put Subash through on goal. The Indian took it first time with his left foot but fired wide.
But a surprising German goal (89th) brought the crowd to pin drop silence.
Deepak Mandal whipped in a cross which was poor. However, Subash's header saw the ball go straight to the feet of German whose powerful shot found the back of the net to level things.
Mumbai, after drawing their last match at home, will travel to Chennai to face Chennaiyin FC on December 1 whereas bottom-placed Blasters will host FC Goa on November 29.