In a match that was lively from the kickoff, Chennaiyin FC may not have been happy to come out with a draw against Atletico de Kolkata, having the lion's share of possession and a lot more clear-cut opportunities. Here are the two big factors that resulted in this conceivably fair result to both teams.
Atletico's Pressing Game
With Chennaiyin FC going with almsot the same eleven (with Eli Sabia replaced Eder Monteiro), it was clear from the beginning that Atletico's plan was to prevent the home team's passing game to come into play. Atletico's captain Borja Fernandez led from the front with eight tackles and two interceptions in the game. His harrying of Zakeer Mundampara resulted in the first chance of the game with the clock ticking just past a minute. But his shot from outside the penalty area was deflected wide by his counterpart Bernard Mendy. The resultant corner was too deep, but an alert Lalrindika Ralte's cross from the left was headed on to the post by defender Henrique Sereno. Chennaiyin FC, as a result of ATK's gameplan, resorted to going back to the goalkeeper Karanjit Singh to clear the ball, thrice within the first 13 minutes.
Winning the ball with constant harrying, Atletico's midfielders punted the ball to the flanks trying to take advantage of Chennaiyin's narrow set-up. While Mehrajuddin Wadoo stood up to the task fairly well, Jerry Lalrinzuala had a particularly tough time. The experienced Javi Lara and the enthusiastic Pritam Kotal tested the 18-year old right through the match. It was no surprise that 11 of the 17 crosses played by Atletico came from the right – Lara accounting for six and Pritam five. In response to a question from Firstpost, coach Jose Molina admitted "We wanted to attack both their flanks."
It was one of those crosses that provided Atletico's goal, out of the blue. The game was meandering six minutes from the half time mark, when Javi Lara was down the right flank trying to get in a cross. Young Jerry seemed to have enough to ward off his threat and Lara was forced to go back. Jerry momentarily switched off and Pritam Kotal was quick to run into the space with the ball and provide a belligerent cross. The substitute Daniel Lalhlimpuia was late in trying to cover the marauding fullback. The experienced Helder Postiga was perfectly positioned to take full advantage of the ball as he netted his second goal for this season.
While the solid gameplan provided Atletico with the opening goal, they couldn't sustain it right through the game. In their own manager's words, "We didn't have the energy to continue the same way in the second half and Chennaiyin FC kept coming at us and we couldn't defend well."
Tenacious Chennaiyin FC
Chennaiyin to their credit, had chances right through the match, in spite of Atletico's pressing game. The first of those fell to Jeje Lalpkhlua as early as the fifth minute. Eli Sabia found David Succi with a neat cross and Succi quickly laid the ball to Jeje, who took a snapshot under pressure at the goal. But his shot was straight at the goalkeeper. Then Raphael Augusto, in the 10th minute, chipped in a ball to find Jeje Lalpekhlua, who did wonderfully to hold off the defenders and head on to the path of Hans Mulder. Mulder controlled his shot on the volley but Atletico goalkeeper Debjit Majumder was at hand to parry the effort over the goal.
It came as a big blow to Chennaiyin when Jeje Lalpekhlua had to be forced out of the game with what seemed a muscle injury. Daniel Lalhlimpuia, another AIFF academy product, made his first appearance from the bench for Chennaiyin FC, in place of Jeje. The substitute, also a Bengaluru FC forward, took time to settle into the game and really blossomed out after the second substitution. Hans Mulder, apart from the early chance, had a forgettable game with just 19 passes to show for his 67 minutes of play and was unsurprisingly replaced by Dudu Omagbemy. This change pushed Daniel on to the left flank and he almost made an instant impact with a splendid turn and a tantalising cross. He again showed great composure to take take a shot after dribbling his way into the penalty area, three minutes later.
It was this sustained pressure from the left that eventually resulted in the equaliser. Jerry and Daniel combined down the left to find Zakeer Mundampara with acres of space to shoot. He took the chance and the scorching strike was headed over by a deflection. The resultant corner seemed to be headed away, but Bernard Mendy headed it back from just outside the area and the ball trickled towards the corner flag. Eli Sabia, the other Chennaiyin centre back, sincerely went after the ball and succeeded in keeping it in play and losing his marker. His chipped ball then found David Succi who headed into the far corner on the bounce through a sea of bodies. Succi and Jerry then had two wonderful opportunities to seal the game for Chennaiyin but it was simply not meant to be.
The displeasure in the face of manager Marco Materazzi was obvious and was clearly enunciated in his monosyllabic replies to the questions in the press conference. Though Chennaiyin FC are stuck in sixth place, this was not a bad result for the home team as they showed the heart to win a point from a seemingly losing position.