The Marina Machans twice came back from behind in regulation time but that wasn’t to be enough.
Aizawl FC scripted a fantastic victory over Chennaiyin FC by edging them 5-3 on penalties after being tied 2-2 at the end of extra-time, in the first pre-quarter final of the Hero Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Andrei Ionescu’s brace gifted Aizawl the lead on two occasions, before Mailson Alves and Dhanachandra Singh equalised for the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 champions to take the match to penalties, which they eventually lost.
Aizawl began the match with intent from the very first minute. Masih Saighani collected a free-kick inside the box and attempted to swing it in, but he failed to keep it on target. A minute later, Ionescu’s free-kick from outside the box was directed straight at Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh who collected it comfortably.
Though Chennaiyin started making inroads from the 10-minute mark, Aizawl replied back in the 22nd minute, when their continuous attempts reaped dividends. Ionescu rushed forward with the ball looking for openings in the defence and sent in a shot that deflected past Karanjit to find the back of the net.
Thereafter, Aizawl continued to dominate proceedings with Chennaiyin trying to search for loopholes in their defence. The Hero ISL champions had a golden chance in added time when Anirudh Thapa tried to get the ball past Aizawl’s custodian Arup Debnath, who in turn pulled a brilliant save with his legs to ensure his team entered the break with the one-goal advantage.
Bikramjit Singh and Thoi Singh were introduced into the mix by Chennaiyin in the second half, but Aizawl continued to keep their attacking mode on. Chennaiyin’s attempts to find gaps to score were thwarted well by Aizawl’s young and inspired defenders, who managed to hold their ground.
However, more drama was left to be unfolded as Alves came to Chennaiyin’s rescue in the 89th minute. Thoi’s strike hit the crossbar and rebounded toward Alves, who made no mistake in netting the crucial equaliser from close range. The five minutes of added time could not change the scoreline as both the teams geared up to play 30 minutes of extra-time, tied at 1-1.
The first 15 minutes of extra-time started with a bang as Aizawl took the lead in the very first minute through Ionescu again. He latched onto a low cross, cut past the defender and curled the ball past Karanjit. He set up another chance in the last minute of the half for Zikahi Leonce Dodoz inside the box, but the latter failed to connect with it from close-range.
Chennai started the second 15 minutes in full attacking mode as Aizawl tried to play defensive. However, a mistake from that very defence gifted Chennaiyin the second equaliser, when Dhanachandra Singh’s low effort from distance went past the crowded penalty area to find the back of the net. With no further action from either end, the match rolled into the high-octane penalty shootouts.
Ionescu stepped up to take the first penalty for Aizawl and converted, while Bikramjit scored Chennaiyin’s first. In the next attempt, Dodoz found the back of the net but Mohammed Rafi failed to keep it on target. With a slight advantage to their name, Aizawl struck back with two successful penalties from Saighani and Lalchhawnkima. Chennaiyin tried to stay in the game through Dhanachandra and Dhanpal Ganesh’s penalties, before Lalmuankima’s successful dink took Aizawl deservedly to the quarter-finals.