CHENNAI: “One point gained, rather than two points lost.” That’s how Chennai City FC coach Robin Charles Raja summed up his team’s bow in the I-League, after their encounter against fellow newbies Minerva Punjab FC ended in a goalless draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday.
One can’t fault him for his assessment as his team hardly had time to practice before the game. Their opponents were not much better either, as the midfield hardly linked up with players upfront. After a few futile attempts, they resorted to playing long hopeful punts upfront, expecting forwards Joel Sunday and Manandeep Singh to use their aerial prowess to good effect. “We’ll need time to adjust and show our true form. Few players are still suffering from jet lag, while some have practiced with the full squad for just 30-40 minutes,” Chennai City goalkeeper Karanjit Singh said.
The same was echoed by opposition coach Surinder Singh. Karanjit, part of the Chennaiyin setup in the ISL, was almost a reduced to a mere spectator, except for a smart save off Manandeep in the first half. He was declared Man of The Match, and how fitting that it was his birthday as well!
It was not like the home side did not do anything of note. Defensive duo Anyichie Echezona and skipper Dharmaraj Ravanan marshaled the back four well, and snuffed out any chance that the Chandigarh side could muster. “Considering it was our first match, our defence performed well, and a clean sheet is always a bonus. We need to improve up front if we’re to convert our home into a fortress,” Ravanan said.
Robin started the game with two defensive minded midfielders — pairing Dhanpal Ganesh with veteran Denson Devadas. And the duo controlled the ball well. However, it also added to the slow build-up, with both looking to play safe instead of trying to venture forward.
The first chance of note fell to Afghanistan’s Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri, whose shot in the fifth minute was parried by Minerva keeper Ravi Kumar. Most of Chennai’s attacks came from the right flank, with Amiri combining well with right back Abhishek Das. The four thousand that had turned up to see the new home side could have gone home happy late on.
Substitutes Zakeer Mundampara and Marcos Tank combined well in the 87th minute, and Marcos found himself through on goal. With just the keeper to beat, he tried to side-foot home, only to tamely hit it straight to Ravi Kumar.
“We need to keep working hard and with time, the boys will get to know each others styles and strengths, and soon enough, combination play will click,” CCFC assistant coach Andrew Oakley noted.