Chennaiyin FC emerged victorious against NorthEast United FC in match 12 of the ISL, winning 2-1 at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa. First, Lallianzuala Chhangte scored to give his side the lead, and then Anirudh Thapa netted winner for his team with an impressive finish.
The game was marked by strategic gameplay, and the sides were seen to be cancelling each other out on occasions, but players from either side consistently stepped up to create chances and impact the game.
NorthEast United FC kicked off the game on a strong note, as their side looked comfortable in possession with the return of their ace playmaker Federico Gallego, while also pressing their opponents intensely.
Bozidar Bandovic’s side were pegged back and deployed a low block in the initial stages of the game.
The first major chance of the game fell to Lallianzuala Chhangte in the 13th minute, as the inverted winger got on the end of a ball on the right flank, cut inwards, and tried to slide the ball into the near post only to be denied by a smart save by the goalkeeper.
Gallego showed a glimpse of his abilities in the 17th minute when he threaded an inch-perfect pass for Mathias Coureur who just had Vishal Kaith to beat but was pushed wide by a recovering Slavko Damjanovic.
A hefty challenge from Narayan Das caught Gallego in the knee, and the Uruguayan had to be taken off in the 22nd minute, which was a turning point in the game.
Suhair Vadakkepeedika leaped high to win the header from a long throw in the 39th minute and directed his attempt goalwards, but Vishal Kaith showed composure and secured the ball with ease.
The deadlock was broken in the 41st minute when Chhangte made the Highlanders pay for a lazy clearance from a set-piece, as he stole the ball from Khassa Camara at the edge of the box, and unleashed a screamer, which hit the underside of the crossbar to beat Subasish Roy Choudhary in goal.
The team from Chennai continued to pile on the pressure as the half was ending, but couldn’t double their lead.
NorthEast United FC made a couple of changes at the start of the second half to liven things up, and Khalid Jamil’s men got their reward in the 50th minute through an individual blunder by Kaith, who made no contact while attempting to punch away a Mashoor Shereef long throw, allowing Suhair to deflect it into the net.
After equalizing, the side came close to adding a second when Gurjinder Kumar attempted a long-range shot that hit the post, and the rebound was scuffed wide by Lalkhawpuimawia.
Mirlan Murzaev slotted it into his opponent’s net in the 63rd minute, but his goal was ruled out for offside.
The Highlanders had a couple of moments of brilliance as in the 67th minute, Lalkhawpuimawia received a penetrative pass from Shereef, before taking a shot that sailed just wide of the upright.
Hernan Santana followed it up with a strike from 30-yards out in the 68th minute, which tested Kaith in goal, who parried it out for a corner
Anirudh Thapa scored the decisive goal for his side in the 74th minute, as he powered his way through the NorthEast backline with his pace and thumped it past Choudhary in goal.
Mathias Coureur almost pried open Chennaiyin FC’s defence with a well-timed pass in the 88th minute, but Lalkhawpuimawia couldn’t get on the end of it.
The Highlanders tried chasing the game by making a few offensive substitutions, but it was to no avail, as Bandovic’s troops stayed compact and protected their lead, seeing off a couple of dangerous long throws in the dying minutes of the game.
The win has sent Chennaiyin FC just behind ATK Mohun Bagan in the points table into the second position. NorthEast United FC continue to feature in the lower half of the table in ninth place.
Chennaiyin FC would be aiming to maintain their perfect start to the season when they square off against SC East Bengal on December 3, while NorthEast United FC will be looking to get their first win of the season against FC Goa on December 4.