CHENNAI: V Soundararajan is a big believer in luck. In his first game in charge, he ordered that the team switch from their usual yellow and green shirts to the red and black away kit, as if to signal the start of a different era. The team then went on a decent run, lifting themselves up from the bottom of the table.
On Sunday, with his team bottom again, Soundar opted to switch kits once more, with Chennai City FC turning up in yellow for the first time under his reign. But there was no such luck, as they conceded a 92nd minute equaliser to DSK Shivajians and lost out on two vital points. It was imperative that Chennai got all three at the JN Stadium — their next two games are against Bengaluru FC and East Bengal. And for the longest time, it looked like they might do so, courtesy a beautiful looping header that Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri scored in the dying embers of the first half.
But DSK’s Irish defender Shane McFaul had different ideas, scoring right when the finish line was in sight for the hosts. The point was no more than what DSK deserved, indeed a case can be made that they deserved all three. There were times in the second half when it looked like only the supernatural was preventing DSK from finding the net. But the tilt in fortunes, after an evenly-matched first half, was down to the home team themselves — they came out for the second half looking to defend their lead rather than play a game of football. S oundar resorted to the 4-4-2 formation that his predecessor Robin Charles Raja had used with little success, with Haroon Amiri lining up just behind Charles D’Souza and Marcus Vinicius on the left wing.
It was the first time that the manager was starting with all his international recruits, and his intentions were clear. And just when it looked like the first half would be barren, the newbies pulled one out of the hat. Local boy S Nandhakumar’s corner, in the 42nd minute, was met by Amiri, his perfectly-timed leap and textbook header leaving DSK keeper Subrata Paul stranded. Amiri, having put all his issues with the team management behind, ran to the corner flag and kissed the turf. The second half started with a flurry of DSK attacks and Sanju Pradhan nearly put the visitors level, heading a Querro free-kick just wide. They went close again, with both Querro and Lallianzuala Chhangte missing chances in quick succession.
But just as all the reports about a rather fortuitous Chennai win were being written, McFaul changed the script. The central defender, on the edge of the opposition box for a last gasp DSK attack, saw the ball roll to him. Karanjit, unsighted by a number of Chennai shirts infront, could only look on as McFaul’s low shot rolled into the right corner. The final whistle came soon after, and Chennai’s players looked like they had been beaten soundly. This was a case of so near, yet a bit too far. Results: Minerva 0-1 Bengaluru FC; Chennai City 1-1 DSK Shivajians.