CHENNAI:Chennaiyin FC had better possession and more shots on goal, but were still undone by a more polished NorthEast United FC in Wednesday’s ISL match.
The home team showed intent from the start yet could not convert chances, which proved costly in the final analysis. Goals from former Fulham man Diomansy Kamara and substitute Jorge Manuel Rebelo helped NorthEast complete a double against the Blues, earlier beaten 2-0 in Guwahati, at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Before NorthEast’s twin strikes, Elano had put Chennaiyin in front with a great finish in the opening half, which was suspended due to rain.
Marco Materazzi’s side created the bulk of chances, won more corners and free-kicks, but it was finishing that went missing. NorthEast were more lethal in the final third. Two chances and they made Chennaiyin pay to record a crucial 2-1 win to stay in hunt for a semifinal spot.
As soon as the referee blew the starting whistle, Chennaiyin forward John Stiven Mendoza got the crowd going with a neat run on the right and cut in a sumptuous cross in the penalty box, but there were no takers to finish his good work. That set the tone of the match, as the teams vying for the fourth spot showed promise. Even the cloudburst could not dampen the mood of the crowd as the players engaged in a fiery contest.
Chennaiyin’s South American duo, Elano and Mendoza, were once again in the thick of action near the rival box. The first real effort of the match was created by the two, when Mendoza found Elano unmarked in the middle. The Brazilian showed usual calmness to get hold of the pass and evaded a couple of defenders to unleash a shot, which went off faster than usual due to the wet pitch. Keeper TP Rehenesh read it well to keep it out.
As the match wore on, the home team looked the likelier side to find the opener but their dominance was cut short by suspension of play due to lightening after the first quarter of action. When play resumed, Chennaiyin continued to probe and it was Elano who got the breakthrough soon after the 30-minute mark. NorthEast defender Andre Bikey’s headed clearance from a cross fell kindly for the forward and he placed it well to beat Lopez.
But the lead did not last long as a howler by Chennaiyin’s Cameroon’s goalkeeper Edel Apoula gifted NorthEast the equaliser. Midfielder Bruno Herrero found Kamara with a perfect cross. The Frenchman headed the pass straight to Apoula but the latter could not grab firmly and only managed to hand it back to Kamara. The forward made no mistake with his second chance.
After the change of ends, Chennaiyin again showed early intent to grab the lead and gain momentum. Meanwhile, Mendoza had a goal disallowed. Brazilian Raphael Augusto found the Colombian with a peach of a ball and he did well to roll the ball into the net only to be ruled offside.
However, it was NorthEast who got the goal out of nowhere. Substitute Fernandes stunned the home crowd with a wonderful finish. Kamara was the creator-in-chief and his perfect ball found the Portuguese in the penalty box. The latter displayed fancy footwork to get past a defender and bury the ball past a helpless goalkeeper.
Buoyant after the goal, NorthEast showed more urgency. Perhaps the players realised it would be vital to seal three points at a crucial juncture of the league. They defended in unison and held on to the lead until the final whistle.
Chennaiyin are sixth on the table with 10 points from eight matches. NorthEast have the equal number of points, but are seventh due to goal difference. Materazzi’s boys face a tough test in their next match, away against Atletico de Kolkata, who are fourth on the table.