CHENNAI: Saturday was rain in the desert for Chennai City. Three points and two goals for a team whose corresponding numbers for the season read four and three respectively. While new coach V Soundararajan was hailed for placing his trust in novices like Michael Regin and Edwin Vanspaul, it was an old warhorse that contributed more than most to the cause.
Alongside Dhanpal Ganesh, Denson Devadas ran the midfield for Chennai. Whether it be engaging in destructive rearguard action or huffing and puffing into the Mumbai box, the 34-year-old put in the kind of lung-bursting display that his younger self at Mohun Bagan or Viva Kerala would have been proud of.
Even the man himself feels it was his best performance in quite some time. “The last couple of seasons, be it I-League or ISL, I couldn’t find much rhythm,” he says. “I’d get a couple of uninterrupted games, start feeling better and then pick up an injury and miss a few games. This season has been better so far. When I started the first game against Minerva, I was maybe at 50 to 60 per cent. But I feel a lot better and it is showing in my game.”
A win will lift the spirit of every team, but Denson revealed that it was the goals that had made the bigger difference. “Yes, we are all pleased with the three points. But even better was the fact that we scored two goals. That was the big problem that everyone was talking about, right? Us not scoring goals? So, it was good to solve that one.”
After seven gameweeks of loitering around the bottom, Chennai City suddenly find themselves seventh. They are only four points off Bengaluru FC in fifth — albeit having played a game more — and five off Shillong Lajong who will come visiting next Sunday.
“We knew that we were only a win away from improving our position in the table. It looked bad, but it was not that bad,” Denson says. “And now, we have a few games at home. It’s a chance to get a few more points and climb even higher up the table.”
And Chennai City will only get better, Denson says, once the likes of Regin and Edwin, get to play more games. “See, every player will take time to adjust to the I-League. It has happened with all of us,” he says. “Before this season, the likes of Regin, Edwin and Raegan had no experience at this level.
But with every minute they play, they will get better. For example, Regin was much better for us against Mumbai than when he was against Bengaluru FC. And when they get better, the team will too.”