It was a perfect performance of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from Chennaiyin FC as their attack worked sincerely and assiduously to take the lead thrice. The defence along with the goalkeeper were the antidote for Northeast United FC as they conceded thrice, the last one all but spelling doom for Chennaiyin's campaign this Indian Super League (ISL).
With goals coming at a premium, when compared to the last campaign, it was interesting to see who Chennaiyin will start with in this must-win game. Dudu Omagbemi in place of the timid Jayesh Rane seemed a no-brainer. Jerry Lalrinzuala, as expected, came back after his game of rest. Bernard Mendy, who was suffering a fever according to manager Marco Materazzi, made way for the youngster. The only other change from the previous game was Siam Hanghal, last seen in the disheartening loss to Delhi Dynamos, who came in for Harmanjyot Singh Khabra.
The last of the changes proved a masterstroke, as the young Hanghal was the perennial outlet for the attack dribbling his way in and causing disarray in the Northeast defence. Chennaiyin were literally camped in the opponent's half for the most part with a possession of 60 percent. It was the young Indian, hailing from Manipur, who masterminded the first goal. His teasing run down the right showing ample skills had the Northeast defence mesmerised. He waited for the perefect moment to slip the ball to the overlapping Mehrajuddin Wadoo, whose perfect first time cross found Dudu, who made no mistake.
David Succi, though not on the scoresheet, played an important role as well. His enthusiasm to have the ball saw him drop deep often, and it was one such occasion that lead to the second goal. He held up play well in the left flank and then released Jerry Lalrinzuala into ample space, with time at hand. Jerry's low cutback was brilliantly finished by Dudu with a neat little flick. At the stroke of half time it was with a spring in the step that Chennaiyin headed back to the dressing room.
The second equaliser came soon into the second half and the game seemed to threaten to end in a draw, when not for the first time, manager Marco Materazzi turned to Bernard Mendy in the 75th minute. The captain in the right wing was full of energy and soon the Northeast goal was literally at siege with a series of corners and throw-ins.
The third goal seemed impending and it came from the substitute's run on the right, Raphael Augusto having the vision to send Mendy free this time. Mendy's marauding run ended in a low cross that was actually was missed by Dudu, but the hapless Rehensh (on for the injured goalkeeper Subrata Paul), could only deflect the cross on to the sprawled Dudu. The ball took the final touch from the latter and trickled past the goal line.
If there was one blemish from the attack, it was towards the end, when happy with a one goal lead, Raphael Augusto and company, decided to run down the time rather than go for the killer goal. In Marco's own words "I regret us not going for the fourth goal as Raphael [Augusto] was dribbling and trying to get past five players, he could have given a long ball to [Bernard] Mendy but as I say this is football and there is not much we can do about it now. "
While the Chennaiyin attack was taking its task seriously, the defence was guilty of switching off in the most inappropriate of moments. The signs were seen early in the tenth minute as a brilliant passing move from the Northeast midfield caught the Chennaiyin defenders unawares and only a last ditch deflection saving the blushes for the home team. Northeast looked dangerous on the counter with the pace of Nicolas Velez clearly causing havoc.
It came as no surprise after the first goal that Velez was the scorer of the equaliser. Romaric (Koffi Ndri) and Didier Zakora were pulling the strings in the midfield for Northeast and Dider's ball dummied by Romaric found Velez's incisive run. Velez still had a lot to do with the Chennaiyin defence in front of him, but he simply ran unopposed into the area and unleashed a powerful strike to the top left corner with the entire defence and goalkeeper watching on.
Zakeer Mundampara has been in the screening midfield role for Chennaiyin in the past few games. It was important for him to make the tackles and pass quickly and accurately. But with him deciding to dribble the ball, the Northeast midfielders took advantage quickly with ball played to the right flank. The situation could still have been salvaged when the cross came in. But Eli Sabia's attempt to trap the ball than clearing first time proved costly as the ball fell neatly to Nicolas Velez. His shot was straight at Karanjit and the goalkeeper added to Chennaiyin's woes deflecting the ball onto the goal.
With the lead taken the third time, and with the past experience showing the vulnerability to late equalisers, Chennaiyin failed to learn from their mistakes. After Dudu's hat trick, around the 88th minute, the ball ran out of play near the dugout. Marco Materazzi was there when first a ball boy coming forward was slowed down by the manager. Then Nicolas Velez, who retrieved the ball that actually went out threw it to Wadoo. The latter needlessly headed it out, incensing Velez further. Velez then pushed the ball hardly on to Wadoo's chest who dramatised the same with a fall. This quickly turned ugly as Koffi Ndri along with the two already involved players were booked.
Most Indians believe in 'karma' and soon it delivered the final judgement in a cruel fashion. Eder Monterio had come on for Dudu Omagbemi in injury time to play out the final few minutes. He, in fact, made a goalline block in the dying minutes to deny Northeast United. But in spite of five defenders and almost the entire attack protecting the Chennaiyin goal for a corner, Shouvik Ghosh was unmarked to send a header to deliver a conceivably fatal blow to Chennaiyin's hopes of making the semifinals.
Chennaiyin with a goal difference of -4 are all but out of the competition unless, a huge win against FC Goa is coupled with miraculously favourable results elsewhere push them into the semifinals