CHENNAI: When two bottom-placed clubs face each other, one usually expects it to be an entertaining affair. Both sides have a point to prove and know that the opposition is not going to get easier than this. But that was not the case on Monday as Chennaiyin FC hosted Hyderabad FC.
The hosts, yet to score a goal this season, were facing a team who conceded the most so far — 10. And after 90 minutes, it looked like those statistics were about to remain the same.
But as the saying goes, never say never in football. With five minutes of added time, the match erupted. Both sets of players, who were wasteful until then, looked like they suddenly had superpowers. It all started in the 92nd minute.
Andre Schembri, who came on as a substitute, almost bagged three points for the hosts when he converted a cross from Edwin Sydney Vanspaul. Another substitute, Dragos Firtulescu, lost the ball near the right corner flag.
However, the ball kindly fell to Edwin whose cross found Schembri on the far post. The Malta native took a touch and scored Chennaiyin’s first goal of the season with a fine low shot. On the touchline, Gregory looked relieved.
But the celebrations were short-lived. In the 95th minute, Matthew Kilgallon rose above the rest to pull things back from a corner. An elated Gregory’s face turned gloomy again, as it had been so far this season.
In the opposition dugout, coach Phil Brown donned an evil smile, asking his players to regroup faster. But that did not last long either. With the clock ticking past added time, it looked like both sides were going to settle for a point. But Nerijus Valskis had other ideas. With seconds left, Schembri, who was out of balance, rolled a delicious through ball to Valskis who made no mistake as he cooly slotted past Kamaljit Singh.
Gregory let out a sigh of relief as he sprinted to the corner flag to celebrate with Valskis. “After the first goal, to concede like that and then score the winner. I mean, that’s what I meant when I said football will never surprise you. Take yesterday’s game between (Manchester) United and Sheffield. Or consider Liverpool and Barcelona last season. That’s why people go to matches. Anything is possible and that’s why I keep saying football will never surprise you. Anything is possible,” Gregory said.
Without a doubt, Gregory’s men dominated the match. Both halves saw Chennaiyin create plenty of chances. But it was just not meant to be for the former ISL champions until the dying minutes. Gregory and skipper Lucian Goian said that the team was a bit unlucky in front of goal during the pre-match presser. Both praised the players for their effort and determination in the previous games.
The game was not exactly pleasing for fans of both sides. And Brown summed it up perfectly. “The game was not a great spectacle for the viewers,” he said. But Chennaiyin and their fans wouldn’t care about that.