A spirited Chennaiyin FC will hope to halt the Kerala Blasters FC juggernaut when the two sides meet in a third-round match of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) at the Nagoa Ground here on Saturday.
In another tie later in the day, Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) will want to take their fighting performance in the last game to Mumbai City FC as both teams look for their first win in the campaign.
Chennaiyin produced a fighting performance against Jamshedpur FC in their last fixture, conceding a last-gasp goal to end the game as it started at 2-2. It was a bitter pill to swallow for a side that responded to Jamshedpur’s challenge, scoring twice from a goal down to take the lead and almost securing their first win before falling at the last hurdle.
Whether Chennaiyin have really turned a corner after their underwhelming performance in the first match will be gauged against Kerala who have looked the part so far. It will be a litmus test for Cleofas Alex’s boys who have shown better composure against Jamshedpur, especially in the final third.
Suhail Pasha and Johnson Joseph played really well in the last game and will look to continue in the same vein, but against the likes of Bijoy Varghese who extended his stay at Kerala on Thursday, they will have their task cut out. Bijoy was part of Kerala’s first team in the Hero Indian Super League and so were several others in their lineup proving to be the difference makers.
Skipper Ayush Adhikari not only scored the fortuitous long-range goal in the last RFDL game, but he was also brilliant along with Sanjeev Stalin as the duo pulled the strings to perfection against Mumbai. Kerala and Bengaluru are joint-top of the table, having six points from two matches. Chennaiyin are sixth having that one point to show for from two encounters.
Meanwhile, RF Young Champs gave a good account of themselves the other day against Hyderabad FC and head coach Arata Izumi will want his boys to replicate the same form against Mumbai. RF Young Champs pressed Hyderabad high up the park and also showed better presence of mind to counter their threats, underling their learnings from the first fixture against Bengaluru FC.
Razibul Mistry helped the RF Young Champs take the lead only to be undone by an unfortunate own goal and then another in the space of two second-half minutes from Hyderabad’s Bishnu Bordoloi.
Mumbai, winless after two games like RF Young Champs, looked better especially in the second half against the might of Kerala braving the searing heat to create a few gilt-edged chances. Shreyas Vatekar impressed upfront as did Nakul Shelke in midfield.
Mumbai are at the foot of the eight-team points table while RF Young Champs are just a rung above them owing to better goal difference.