In a tight match at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Balewadi, on Sunday, Chennaiyin FC held on to a 1-1 draw against FC Pune City, after taking an early lead. It was a fair draw in the end, with both teams cancelling each other out. What were the positives that Chennaiyin could take home from this match? Where do they need to tighten up. Let's ananlyse Chennaiyin's performance against FC Pune City and also their prospects in the Indian Super League:
Sixth different goalscorer and sixth different provider of assist
Jeje Lalpekhlua opened his account with a brilliantly taken goal in the 27th minute. He did well to hold off the tall Eduardo Ferreira and produced an opportunistic lob that cleared his former teammate Apoula Edel Bete neatly. It was a well-deserved goal for the India international in his third start for Chennaiyin this season.
But what is even more interesting is that the ball to Jeje came from full-back Jerry Lalrinzuala. With this assist, Jerry became the sixth different provider for what is Chennaiyin FC's seventh goal of the season. This means that including Jeje and Dudu Omagbemi, who both have at least a goal and an assist, there have been ten different players involved in a goal for Chennaiyin. Six different providers, six different goalscorers, seven goals, and all this in just five matches. The whole team is weighing in to replace the duo of John Stiven Mendoza and Elano Blumer.
What this also means is that there is no fixed pattern in Chennaiyin FC's attack. The goals have come from shots outside the box, a beautiful volley, a wonderful lob from a long punt from the defence, a couple of deflections and a couple of neat finishes. All of them have come in open play. Chennaiyin's opponents will have their task cut out trying to make a plan to stop this team for sure.
Squad rotation: Boon and bane
The changes coach Marco Materazzi made in the last match against NorthEast United FC made a lot of sense. In this match, again, there were five changes. Raphael Augusto got a well-deserved rest, with Manuele Blasi coming in. This meant that with Siam Hanghal and Blasi both screening the defence, Chennaiyin were pretty much set up to soak up the pressure and hit back on the counter.
This was evident in the 17th minute when Jeje, who won the ball at a dangerous position, was eventually forced to go back. With Hanghal and Blasi not confident to forge forward, the ball soon ran out of play with some Pune pressure. Moreover, Dudu, starting on the right ahead of Baljit Sahni, is also not a dribbler.
But what Chennaiyin had in the frontline were two indefatigable workers in Jeje, who replaced David A Succi, and Dudu himself, who were ready to fight for every ball that was coming in from the back. It is one such long ball that Jeje made his own to fox the solid Pune goalkeeper Bete. The tenacity of the frontline paid off and this gives Chennaiyin FC a working plan against teams that control possession.
In the defence, John Arne Riise took over the marshalling duties from Bernard Mendy and the back four continued their new-found solidity. Jerry Lalrinzuala is energetic and enthusiastic, but error-prone as well. Riise did well on a couple of occasions to cover the youngster. Mehrajuddin Wadoo, apart from a needless tackle to earn a yellow card near the half-line, was impeccable. Eli Sabia, with his well-timed clearances and interceptions, is proving to be a great find this season.
While the remaining changes all worked well, Materazzi's decision to replace Karanjit Singh, who had two clean sheets in two matches, with Duwayne Kerr, who has now conceded all six goals against Chennaiyin, left everyone surprised. Agreed that the tall Jamaican was authoritative in collecting or parrying all the crosses. But he had also made some glaring errors in the first two matches.
A free-kick from just outside the box was in all probability going to go over the wall and was goal-bound. The goalkeeper's instinctive move should have been to cover that area, but Kerr was slow to move and hesitated to make the early dive, which clearly cost Chennaiyin FC a clean sheet and two valuable points. Materazzi has made some great calls so far with regard to his starting line-up, but was this one change too many for this match?
FC Pune City were clearly lucky to end the match with 11 men, as defender Dharmaraj Ravanan's cynical stamp on Dudu went unnoticed by the referee and the linesman.
Considering that Chennaiyin FC were set up not to concede and nick a goal on the counter, the draw seems a fair result. With four points on the road from two matches, Chennaiyin will return home satisfied.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 12:25:46 IST