Chennaiyin FC retained their spot at the top of the ISL league table as they squeezed out a hard-fought win against Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex on Thursday. An offensive-minded Jamshedpur failed to take their chances in the first-half succumbing to their second league defeat.
So much for the lack of goals
The buildup to this game was entrenched in debates over Jamshedpur FC’s ability to make it count at the other end of the pitch. The newcomers, under Steve Coppell, have shown tremendous discipline and structure defensively, conceding just one goal in the first six games but the biggest chink in their armour has been their inability to score. They could squeeze in just one goal from open play so far, and even their manager had admitted in the pre-game press conference that scoring was a serious ailment they needed to find a solution for.
Some different tactics were expected from them today and it was seen in Coppell’s offensive shifts every time they got the ball. The plan was simple - to flood the attacking third with players. Jamshedpur had established a constructive defence by now with Andre Bikey and Tiri showing brilliant communication. Today, they were further joined by Mehtab Hossain and Memo who allowed wingbacks, Souvik Chakrabarti and Shouvik Ghosh, to further act as wingers.
The wide men upfront, Bikash Jairu and Jerry Mawhmingthanga, consequently moved inside behind Kervens Belfort and buoyed by the mercurial Trindade Goncalves remained a constant threat to Chennai’s defence. Jamshedpur looked a revamped side enjoying over 50% of the possession and having six attempts on goal in the first-half itself.
However, Coppell’s adventurous vision also meant a thin defence at the back that Chennai kept testing at every counterattack before eventually forcing Jamshedpur to concede a penalty in the 41st minute. Though they squandered a chance to level points right at half-time when Belfort missed a penalty, the new setup couldn’t contain throughout the game as Jamshedpur had to resort to their defensive nature in the second-half.
Chennaiyin FC deservedly the table toppers
Though it has been FC Goa who
Any diligent manager in the league would be shocked by Jamshedpur’s start today. The hosts showed tremendous pace in the opening half, which was definitely not what Chennaiyin had in their mind coming into the game. A quick look at their last five games and one would get a reflection of a conservative side, who have always liked to sit deep and attack, if and only there was an ample window of opportunity.
Hence, the sudden high pressing and flurry of crosses did unsettle the visitors for a moment before they customized their gameplay accordingly and absorbed the early pressure by slowing the game at every instance. Centre-halves Henrique Sereno and Mailson Alves had to see off the early wave with tremendous focus before Chennai started off with their incisive moves and drew first blood.
Hardly any side in the ISL possesses a staunch and determined defensive leader amidst them, a role that has proved to be of tremendous importance this season. A passionate player with good vision at the back could go a long way for any team in the league and Chennaiyin have been reaping the fruits of it this season. The qualities in question are all accumulated in Henrique Sereno.
Like every hero, the former FC Porto player also has his flaws that have cost his side at times. But, his unwavering determination to throw his body on the line time and again and going up to provide himself as an extra option when his side is struggling to create chances, have been a differentiator for Chennai on more than one occasion.
Today was no different. Though his recurring rash tackles and affinity to overreact to the officials’ decisions will see him out of the next game after getting four consecutive bookings, he is the essential element that has kept Chennai going. He, along with Mailson Alves, was hugely responsible for halting Jamshedpur in their tracks in the first-half where they were really dangerous. Sereno perfected five tackles and made five clearances whereas his 68% passing accuracy ensured that the hosts didn’t get any loose ball near their penalty area.