Chennaiyin had never lost to Mumbai City FC in five games, but on Wednesday, were handed their first defeat against the table toppers in Mumbai. Chennaiyin FC may point to the referee on missing out on a penalty in the first half, but their aimless attack should also take the blame for the defeat.
An insipid attack
In the absence of Indian striker Jeje Lalpekhlua due to injury, manager Marco Materazzi preferred to start Jayesh Rane with David Succi. What was more interesting was that Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, who has hardly featured in this ISL, started in place of Manuele Blasi on the left. As a result of this, the Chennaiyin attack, with a diamond in the midfield, was pretty narrow. The width was to be provided by the fullbacks.
While both John Arne Riise and Mehrajuddin Wadoo marauded forward whenever they could, it barely provided any meaningful attack. Wadoo especially, was having an off day. The first sign of his awry day came as early as the fourth minute, when he tried to shoot from near the halfway line hitting way over the goal. His crosses were either overhit or straight to the goalkeeper. He simply ran the ball out of play while running with it twice, first in the sixth minute and later in the 76th minute. On the one occasion Wadoo's cross was dangerous, in the 52nd minute, Chennaiyin didn't have enough bodies up front.
Having numbers in the midfield, one would have expected a more direct approach and passing their way through. But the 25 crosses from Chennaiyin during the entire match cried of long balls. What this does is, it takes out Raphael Augusto, Chennaiyin's best player, off the equation. With barely anyone to support him in his passing, the midfielder suffered. He had only 27 passes to show and was the first one to be substituted on 67 minutes, with Dudu Omagbemy coming on for him.
When Chennaiyin did create a few chances, their forwards disappointed. On more than one occasion, Jayesh Rane did well to hold the ball in play showing skills, only to provide a weak final ball which found the opponents. Succi on the other hand, being mostly isolated, shot straight at the keeper twice in two minutes late in the game.
Chennaiyin simply seemed to be bereft of ideas and with the work ethic of Jeje missing in the frontline, there was no one to put in the paces and try to breach the Mumbai defence, which has now kept seven clean sheets.
Elements of misfortune
Mumbai City FC clearly were on the ascendancy when they scored their goal. The combination of Sunil Chhetri and Diego Forlan was creating havoc in the Chennaiyin defence. The Bengaluru FC player has clearly gelled in with the marquee player and it was that camaraderie, with a bit of luck, that brought the first goal for Mumbai City FC.
Chhetri won a throw in on the left. After playing it out with Sena Ralte, a former Chennaiyin player, Chhetri then exchanged passes with the other scorer Kristian Vadocz and ghosted into the penalty area. He then looked up to find Diego Forlan unmarked near the far post. Eli Sabia, the Chennaiyin defender was closing in on him and his pass meant for Forlan to tap him took a significant deflection of Sabia. The ball, to Chennaiyin's misfortune, fell into the path of Matias Defederico, whose curled past Bernard Mendy and Karanjit Singh to give Mumbai the lead.
Chennaiyin were keen to retaliate soon and within the next couple of minutes, a dangerous cross from the left was handled clearly by Mumbai defender Gerson Vieira within the penalty area. The handled ball was literally a 'fingering' in terms of volleyball, and the incident went unpunished as Chennaiyin's appeal for penalty fell on deaf ears.
The defender in question, was already on a yellow card for a needless tackle on John Arne Riise in the seventh minute. Apart from handling the ball within the area intentionally, the defender also brought down David Succi in the 35th minute. Chennaiyin would rue their luck wondering what could have happened if Mumbai were penalised for those errors.
At the end of the day, it was Mumbai who sealed their place in the semifinals and Chennaiyin now have their qualification out of their hands and have to hope other results go in their favour.