The southern outfit sealed their first top flight win…
Chennai City vanquished Aizawl 2-0 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday night as they registered their first I-League win, courtesy of a screamer from Marcos Vinicius and a Charles de Souza penalty goal.
Coach Robin Charles Raja started with just three at the back in light of skipper Dharmaraj Ravanan failing to recuperate. His Aizawl counterpart and I-League stalwart manager Khalid Jamil fielded five defenders as he looked to keep up his side’s stellar defensive record.
Unlike during Mohun Bagan’s Chennai visit, the first half hour of the Aizawl-Chennai meeting hardly saw any clear-cut chance being created. Resolute defending from the Haroon Amiri-marshalled Chennai defense and Chennai’s attacking players lacking purpose meant neither team prompted saves from the goalkeepers. The first goal-scoring chance came on 30 minutes when Chennai’s only I-League goalscorer Vinicius curled in a cross from the left flank only for Charles to attempt a fancy flick past Albino Gomes in vain.
However, prior to the invention of the first chance, Chennai players often went seconds away from a shot at Gomes’ goal as Charles, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and Edwin Sydney Vanspaul all either tripped themselves before releasing the ball inside the penalty box or dribbled past the line for goal kicks.
Despite Chennai’s Brazilian forwards’ industry on the other end of the pitch, Aizawl sent in numerous delicious crosses from either flank. However, Aniyichie Echezona and co. managed to keep the Chennai custodian Abhra Mondal untested throughout the first half as the first 45 minutes ended goalless.
Chennai broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half when Vinicius, after collecting a pass from Edwin, beat hapless Gomes from outside the penalty area with a stunner, ignoring his unmarked teammates. Although the ensuing celebration looked awkward and forced, the goal managed to silence the away supporters, who had been hitherto boisterous.
The Mizoram club, who had not tasted defeat in I-League this season brought on forward Lalnunpuia Tlau, sacrificing midfielder Albert Zohmingmawia to pull one back, but Chennai proceeded to dominate them as Tank forced two clearances off the line moments after Amiri’s shot had missed the target narrowly.
Jayesh Rane began building up momentum after the half-hour mark, exchanging passes with former Syrian international Mahmoud Amnah and Alfred Jaryan. His resurgence, however, appeared to infuriate under-fire Chennai defender Joseph Clemente, who lunged into a nasty tackle on the Chennaiyin loanee to earn the first yellow of the game. Rane almost nullified Chennai’s lead six minutes later when he volleyed a Bayi Kamo Stephane cross into the stands.
Charles Raja introduced Denson Devadas on 76 minutes to protect the slender lead as Indian international Dhanpal Ganesh made way for the I-League veteran. Chennai’s approach changed drastically after the substitution as the men in green and yellow defended with five men even whilst taking corner kicks.
Valencia academy graduate Darren Caldeira was booked after he committed a lousy foul on Ashutosh Mehta on 80 minutes just in front of the penalty box. However, a lethargic freekick from Nigerian defender Kingsley Obumneme Eze meant Chennai remained in control.
A gassed Edwin left the pitch 10 minutes from the final whistle as local hero Michael Soosairaj joined the fray.
Aizawl continued to send in crosses, but the Chennai defenders kept composure as they managed to keep the white shirts at bay in the final few nervy moments. However, Chennai managed to add insult to the injury in the injury time when Charles was adjudged to have been brought by Kingsley inside the penalty box. The Brazilian forward rounded off a superb display with a calm finish past Gomes to get off the mark in the I-League.
Aizawl had a chance to pull one back in the final minute, but Chennai defended the cross superbly to spark an unyielding counter attack. A final minute melee saw Amiri and Lalruatthara booked.
On the back of a deserving win, Chennai will travel to Shillong tomorrow to take on another north eastern club Shillong Lajong on Tuesday night.