Chennai, October 27, 2019: Chennaiyin FC opened their account for the Hero Indian Super League 2019-20 season with an eventful goalless draw at home to Mumbai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here today. There were chances aplenty for both sides, but the finishing touch was lacking. CFC are back in action at home to ATK in two days’ time on Wednesday, aiming to register their first victory of the campaign.
Head Coach John rung in three changes for the visit of MCFC. Tondonba Singh came on for Jerry Lalrinzuala at left-back, while Masih Saighani made way for the more attack-minded Rafael Crivellaro. Anirudh Thapa started in midfield while Thoi Singh sat out, which meant Romanian Dragos Firtulescu moved out wide to the wings.
Chennaiyin got off to the near-perfect start in the very first minute as Maltese forward Andre Schembri skipped past two defenders and found himself one-on-one with Mumbai keeper Amrinder Singh. The latter ended up making a brilliant double save, first from Schembri and then from Rafael on the rebound from close range. Eli Sabia’s header from the resulting corner looped onto the roof of the net.
It was all Chennai in the opening quarter of the match, Rafael pulling the strings in midfield linking up well with Thapa. The Brazilian attacking midfielder fashioned a chance all by himself soon after, leaving three defenders in his wake with some nifty footwork, only to fire just over the bar from distance.
Mizo winger Lallianzuala Chhangte was a livewire all throughout the match. He should’ve opened the scoring shortly after when he found himself in space inside the MCFC box. Unfortunately his touch was a tad heavy, which gave Amrinder time to adjust and make the save, as Rafael dragged the rebound agonizingly wide.
MCFC striker Moudou Sougou was replaced shortly after for what looked like a hamstring injury, as on came Gabonese forward Serge Kevyn. He had a couple of decent chances to put Mumbai ahead at the other end, but the finish was lacking in the final third. Both teams went into the break amused at how the scoreline was goalless.
Chennaiyin began the second period much like they did in the first, on the attack. Eli Sabia had a half-chance following a corner, his snapshot from an acute angle was saved well by Amrinder at the near post.
Manipuri winger Thoi Singh and Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis came on as the half progressed, for Andre Schembri and Dragos Firtulescu respectively. Rafael Crivellaro also made way for Masih Saighani after the former had picked up a slight knock. Valskis had a couple of decent opportunities, but his efforts either went wide or were blocked off by the Mumbai backline.
MCFC did win the occasional corner in the latter stages but couldn’t make the most of it as both sides eventually settled for a point apiece. Right-back Sauvik Chakrabarti was sent off for a second bookable offence in the closing stages of the game.
Head Coach John Gregory shared his frustration in his post-match chat with the media, saying, “We totally dominated the first 20 minutes or so and I was really frustrated that we weren’t 3-0 up by that point. This is what football does. If you don’t take your chances, the opposition gets confidence and they start using the ball a little bit better. We also stopped doing the good things we had done in the first 20 minutes. My midfielders weren’t in the game as much as they should have been.”
“Second-half, I thought it was a matter of time before which we got the winning goal. We had numerous chances that we should have done better with. Amrinder made a good save. So, it was a bit frustrating for us. But I certainly feel very proud of the way everybody went about their jobs tonight. Overall, I was very happy with the performance. That is the main thing. Everybody just gave everything they had,” he added.