KOLKATA: Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC fired blanks to settle for yet another stalemate between them, this time at the Salt Lake Stadium on Friday.
In a bitterly-fought battle for the top, the action between two sides swung like a pendulum but a goal remained the missing part.
The stalemate meant ATK remained on the top with 13 points from eight games, but their perch is now under threat from late bloomers FC Pune City (11 points) who could be the No. 1 team if they manage to beat NorthEast United FC on Saturday.
Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, stayed behind Antonio Lopez Habas’ side with the same tally of 13 points but with an inferior goal difference.
If it was the fourth consecutive draw for the visitors, ATK took appeared to have hit a rut, failing to win in any of their four matches at home since starting the campaign with a 3-0 win over Mumbai City FC a month ago.
A power cut for 11 minutes halted the game in the first session. Yet, the clash between the top two sides was never devoid of drama and dazzle. It threatened to reach a flashpoint when ATK striker Fikru Teferra and Chennaiyin FC defender Marco Materazzi went charging at each other following an aerial challenge, followed by a heated war of words soon after the break.
Referee Pratap Singh booked the 2006 World Cup-winning Italian as Fikru required treatment on the sidelines for his bleeding head.
There was more. Chennaiyin FC striker Balwant Singh, who escaped a booking for a galling challenge on a rival, did manage to turn the ball into goal following second-half sub Jean Maurice’s brilliant lay-off in the 81st minute.
But the Mohun Bagan striker’s celebration soon turned into frustration when the referee cancelled it after finding him guilty of scoring with the help of his hand and subsequently cautioned him.