The Warriors suffered another last-gasp defeat while the Marina Machans failed to progress despite a win.
Masih Saighani’s goal in added time secured Abahani Limited Dhaka a place in the 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-finals after the Bangladesh club edged Minerva Punjab FC 1-0 in Group E on Tuesday.
The win allowed the Bangladesh club entry into the next round while breaking Minerva Punjab’s streak of five draws in the tournament. With Chennaiyin FC locking horns with Manang Marshyangdi in the other fixture, the match was of key consequence for the fate of Group E. Eventually, defender Saighani’s goal ensured the result of the other match mattered little.
Watch: Minerva Punjab 0-1 Abahani Dhaka highlights
Although Abahani head coach Mario Lemos had said his team would try to stop Minerva Punjab, the Bangladesh side didn’t shy away from attacking from the start.
The first opportunity, though, was created by the Minerva duo of Samuel Lalmuapuia and Makan Chote when the latter’s cross was headed goalwards by Samuel but without the desired result.
It was the Abahani Dhaka show in the first half with the likes of Kervens Belfort, Nabib Jibon and Saad Uddin putting pressure on the Minerva defence, which buckled on several occasions.
However, Abahani Dhaka couldn’t finish and Minerva custodian Bhaskar Roy rarely found it difficult to keep the shots fired at him at bay.
In the 34th minute, Uddin found himself in a good position outside the box but the subsequent left-footed shot was too weak to trouble the Minerva goalkeeper.
Minutes later, the Abahani boys were at it again and strung together passes that left the Minerva defence dazed. The end result again was a fairly disappointing effort from Sohel Rana that found itself straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
The 41st minute saw a Minerva attack almost coming to fruition but Moinudeen, who got hold of the loose ball with all the space and time to create a goal, ended up skying the shot from inside the box.
Action in the second half considerably slowed down with Abahani Dhaka finding the odd chance to break into the Minerva half without any result.
A rare moment of excitement in the second half came late in the 84th minute through a set-piece opportunity for the Minerva side as Kalif Alhassan’s free-kick had the right power and direction but Mohd Alam rose to the occasion to parry it away for a corner.
Samuel and Moinudeen increased the pressure in the next few minutes, resulting in a melee in the box that culminated with a misdirected shot by the latter.
As the game was petering out to a draw, Saighani put a terrific header to score in added time to hand Abahani Dhaka the match.
Rafi strikes late, but Chennaiyin fail to progress
Mohammed Rafi’s 88th minute strike secured Chennaiyin FC a 3-2 win over Manang Marshyangdi Club in a 2019 AFC Cup Group E clash on Wednesday.
The win, however, was not enough for Chennaiyin to finish as group winners, as Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka clinched top spot after beating Minerva Punjab 1-0 in the other Group E tie.
Watch: Manang Marshyangdi 2-3 Chennaiyin FC highlights
Needing a win to have any chance of finishing as group winners, Chennaiyin started aggressively with Mohammed Rafi testing the Manang defence with a cross into the box in the first minute but there was no teammate to receive the ball.
Manang, bottom of the group, were looking to end their 2019 campaign on a high note and replied almost immediately with an effort of their own when Afeez Olawale Oladipo beat the offside trap to receive a pass but shot wide from close range.
Chennaiyin captain Mailson Veriato had a clear chance on goal when he connected with Isaac Vanmalsawma’s cross but failed to keep his header on target in the 18th minute, while Manang struggled to make their way into the final third as Abhishek Rijal tested goalkeeper Karanjit Singh with a long-range effort three minutes later.
The Chennaiyin defenders were reminded to be alert as Oladipo continued to threaten their backline, and came extremely close when he chipped the ball over an incoming Karanjit Singh but Veriato diverted the goal-bound ball.
The game remained goalless heading into the half-time break, mostly thanks to the slick saves of Manang custodian Bishal Shrestha, who denied Jerry Lalrinzuala’s strike from a tight angle with his left boot on 41 minutes.
Manang continued to make most of their efforts from over 30 yards out in the second half, with Bishal Rai’s curling strike missing the top left corner of the net by inches in the 49th minute.
Chennaiyin’s Anirudh Thapa had a glimpse of goal in the 53rd minute when a pass forward found him in the box but before he could let loose a strike, Shrestha’s sliding block deflected the ball over the frame.
Thapa, however, turned provider from the subsequent free-kick as Rafi headed home to break the deadlock. Eli Sabia Filho and Rafi combined in the 66th minute in a counter-attack, with Sabia Filho hitting the ball home.
Manang refused to give up and Oladipo narrowed the deficit in the 71st minute as he finished a brilliant through pass.
Eight minutes later, substitute Bishwakarma Suraj’s cross found Oladipo at the edge of the box, and he outmuscled the Chennaiyin skipper before beating Shrestha again with a right-footed strike to draw his team level.
Chennaiyin were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out after Bishal Rai’s tackle on Vanmalsawma in the 87th minute, which he then curled into the box to Veriato who smacked his shot onto the post, only for Rafi to convert the deflected shot with his header to seal the win a minute later.
However, with Abahani scoring a late winner, there was only despair for Chennaiyin at the final whistle.