CHENNAI: Just when Chennaiyin FC’s coach John Gregory appeared to have solved their biggest problem, another one looks to have cropped up. Up until the very end of their previous game against Hyderabad FC, scoring goals was their biggest bane. The Blues were on a goalless drought that extended back to the end of last season. Then Gregory managed to squeeze two goals out of his forwards in the last five minutes of the Hyderabad game.
The scoring run continued on Thursday against Odisha FC, but a bad habit had been carried over as well — not being able to hold on to a lead. Against Hyderabad, they conceded barely a minute after they had scored, although that was negated by Nerijus Valskis’ ultra-late winner. On Thursday at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennaiyin took the lead twice, only to lose it both times. A game they should have won ended 2-2.
Monday’s hero was Thursday’s hero as well — Valskis scored twice for his team. But replies to both his goals by Xisco Hernandez and Aridane Santana ensured that nobody on the Chennaiyin bench was smiling after the final whistle.The action was packed in to an exciting second half after a dreary first 45 minutes raised fears that Chennaiyin’s new-found lethal touch up front was a flash in the pan. They created precious little and it was Odisha who threatened to go ahead.
It was evident that Gregory had a vital half-time talk to deliver. He appeared to have delivered a rousing one, for Chennaiyin restarted like the team from the last five minutes against Hyderabad. Six minutes into the half, Brazilian Rafael Crivellaro won the ball in midfield and supplied Anirudh Thapa, who held on to it for a bit before knocking it out wide to Thoi Singh. After being erratic all match, Thoi picked the right cross for once and Valskis was there to sidefoot it into the net.But just like Monday, Chennaiyin lost the lead before they had finished celebrating. Odisha winger Jerry Mawihmingthanga’s attempt was deflected into the path of Xisco by goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. Eli Sabia lunged to keep the Spaniard’s shot out but only succeeded in deflecting it into goal.
Gregory responded by throwing in Romanian attacker Dragos Firtulescu for Thoi and the former injected impetus. He played a vital part when Chennaiyin took the lead in the 71st minute. It was his corner that Valskis powered into goal with a towering header. He could have added another soon after, only prevented by Narayan Das seemingly pulling him down in the box. The referee chose not to award the spot-kick.
For a good 11 minutes, it looked like Chennaiyin fans would go home happy for the second match in a row, but Aridane had other plans. His 82nd minute equaliser ensured the teams split points. The result meant Chennaiyin moved one place up to eighth. But they should have gone home with a lot more than that.
Manchester City owners acquire Mumbai
Mumbai City FC has been officially added to City Football Group’s (CFG) growing “family of clubs”. CFG is the parent body that owns EPL defending champions Manchester City. On Thursday, they announced in Mumbai that they had acquired a majority stake in the Indian club. While CFG owns 65 per cent of the shares, Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh own the rest. Mumbai is the eighth club under the flagship of CFG.