ISL 2016: At half-way stage, Chennaiyin FC are still searching for best combination
Chennaiyin are in the mid-table obscurity currently, with four teams within a point of each other. With the top six too close to each other, and the bottom two still in contention, the second half of this season could provide a nerve wracking finish.
Mumbai City FC claimed their first ever points against Chennaiyin FC in the history of the Indian Super League (ISL), with a wonderful goal from substitute Leo Costa in the dying minutes of the game earning them a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night at the Marine Arena.
Here are few talking points from the game.
Rotation policy or search for best 11?
At the halfway stage of Chennaiyin's campaign, there are still slots in midfield and attack which are up for grabs. We have barely seen any changes in defence since the third match for Chennaiyin, with only the goalkeepers swapped or John Arne Riise exchanged for Bernard Mendy.
But the rest of the team has gone for a merry-go-round, with none of them sure about their places. Raphael Augusto might be the only exception, assuming he was rested for the game against FC Pune.
There were changes made for the Mumbai City FC match as well, with Thoi Singh and Harmanjyot Singh Khabra earning their first starts this season; Jeje Lalpekhlua was starting again at home, only for the second time in four matches, after the humiliating loss against Delhi Dynamos.
Given Hans Mulder's injury from the previous game, manager Marco Materazzi has the unenviable task of choosing the right attacking formation and personnel, and this was the way he did so on Wednesday.
Jeje can be a lone striker upfront
Jeje has played as a lone striker only twice this season: Once against FC Pune City, and now against Mumbai City FC. Considering his only two goals this season have come in these two matches, it is perhaps a surprise he hasn't done so more often.
When the manager chucked the 4-4-2 formation after the Delhi Dynamos loss, Jeje seemed to have been the unintended casualty for want of more midfield muscle. The diminutive Indian international compensates his lack of height with tonnes of tenacity and intent. Be it his physical strength in holding back defenders to win balls or the intricacies in the link-up play with his attacking colleagues, he has impressed.
That Mumbai City FC underestimated him while defending a corner, leaving him unmarked, proved to be their downfall. Jeje could have killed the game five minutes later when he tried to cushion Jerry Lalrinzuala's cross into the goal. The idea was right, but the touch was a tad too heavy. David Succi, who currently plays as the lone striker for Chennaiyin, will have to fight for his place, and in Jeje, he has an untiring competitor.
Duwayne Kerr — Chennaiyin's curse?
Chennaiyin goalkeeper Kerr, in for Karanjit Singh, continues to be hospitable to his opponents. He has been in goal four times, and these are the four matches which have seen Chennaiyin concede all seven goals of their ISL campaign this year. While it's true that he can hardly be blamed for the wonder strike from Leo Costa, but his record between the bars has become more jarring when compared to the three clean sheets kept by Karanjit.
The defence and holding midfielders must take the blame for giving Costa the time to take a shot from distance. Agreed, he is no Diego Forlan, but it is not like Chennaiyin had the game in the bag and could let opposition players take shots. The ISL has been much closer this season, and it is these moments of lethargy that might make or break a game.
Chennaiyin are in the mid-table obscurity currently, with four teams within a point of each other. Mumbai City FC, on the other hand, join table toppers Atletico de Kolkata, two points ahead of the midfield pack. With the top six too close to each other, and the bottom two still in contention, the second half of this season could provide a nerve wracking finish.
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