The hosts were pegged back twice in the second half but scored late to seal the three points.
Chennaiyin FC beat ATK 3-2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the opener in the second half before Zequinha cancelled out his strike. Inigo Calderon then helped Chennai regain their lead only for Njazi Kuqi to level again. However, Lalpekhlua bagged his second of the match late in the game to guide his team to victory.
Both sides made a positive start to the contest as the visitors went close to taking lead with just five minutes on the clock. Zequinha did brilliantly to hold the ball inside Chennai’s penalty box before fending off three defenders and passing to Bipin Singh, who cut in from the left and tested the goalkeeper.
An attempted cross by Bipin then almost sneaked into goal near the half-hour mark but neither team managed to grab the game by the scruff of its neck and force play as the half progressed. ATK did shade possession in the opening 30 minutes of the contest but couldn’t create any clear-cut chances to score from.
Zequinha then had another chance to give Kolkata the lead after finding space through the middle. The Portuguese attacker though failed to strike the ball cleanly as his shot was easily saved by the Chennaiyin goalkeeper.
Chennai began to look like more of a threat going forward in the closing stages of the half. Bikramjit Singh put in a delightful ball from left into the penalty area in the 38th minute. However, his cross was just above the Chennai bodies in the box to the disappointment of the home crowd, and the sides went into the break with the score goalless.
The 2015 winners began the second half better than ATK and almost scored in the 47th minute. Jerry Lalrinzuala went on a superb run down the left flank before crossing for Gregory Nelson, who failed to find enough power in his shot to beat the goalkeeper.
ISL 2017-18 Highlights: Chennaiyin FC 3-2 ATK
They did get their goal in the 65th minute though and it came from a well-worked corner. Former ATK man Jaime Gavilan took a short corner before crossing into the box for Henrique Sereno to head against the post. The rebound from the goalpost fell straight to Lalpekhlua, who was Johnny on the spot to nod into an empty net and give his side a 1-0 lead.
The defending champions were behind for just 12 minutes as Zequinha scored the equalizer with a stunning strike. Sereno’s clearance went straight to the Portuguese attacker, whose venomous shot found its way into the bottom right corner.
Chennai re-established their lead with six minutes of normal time to play. After some quick passing on the left, Lalrinzuala squared to Calderon for him to side-foot goal-wards. The Spaniard’s shot took a deflection off Tom Thorpe and gave ATK’s goalkeeper no chance of making a save.
ATK responded again with another leveler a minute from full-time. This time substitute Robbie Keane passed the ball to Kuqi, whose first effort was saved by the keeper but his second on the rebound whistled into the roof of the net.
Chennai did, however, have the final say as Lalpekhlua bagged the winner at the death. The ATK goalkeeper did his best to keep out Calderon’s effort but only managed to palm it towards Lalpekhlua, who was in the right place at the right time to score the winner and give Chennai maximum points.