Kochi, February 1, 2020: On the momentous occasion of their 100th Indian Super League match, Chennaiyin FC became the first team to score six goals in an away game as they swept aside Kerala Blasters 6-3 in a frantic encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
Rafael Crivellaro, Nerijus Valskis and Lallianzuala Chhangte scored a hat-trick of braces as the visitors put up an attacking display to remember. And with a fourth win on the trot, a feat achieved by them for the first time since 2015, CFC climbed to fifth place with 21 points and two points off Mumbai City FC with a game in hand.
CFC Head Coach Owen Coyle opted for an unchanged starting lineup a third game running as goalkeeper Karanjit Singh and midfielder Germanpreet Singh made a return to the bench. It was also a milestone outing for left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala who was making his 50th ISL appearance.
Despite what the final scorelines suggests, the first 40 minutes of the game were devoid of major action with the hosts seeing more of the ball, creating half-chances with the threat of Raphael Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche upfront.
But with five minutes to go to the break, the floodgates opened as Chennaiyin scored thrice in five minutes. The first goal was a gift from KBFC keeper TP Rehenesh, who erroneously played a pass directly to Crivellaro, who took a touch and passed it into the net.
And the Brazilian creative midfielder turned provider soon after, twisting and turning before playing Valskis through on goal. The Lithuanian marksman finished with aplomb to make it 2-0.
It then was 3-0 in the blink of an eye in first half stoppage time as Crivellaro added another. With Kerala holding a high line, Anirudh Thapa played the ball into space in the hosts’ half. Crivellaro ran onto the pass from his own half, thus beating the offside trap. He ran the length of the Kerala half before finding the back of the net with a cool finish.
Kerala Blasters did come out fighting after the break, pulling one back through Ogbeche’s first-time strike from Jessel Carneiro’s cross from the left on 48 minutes. The home crowd responded, urging their side to go for it.
But the Blasters’ defence had themselves to blame on the hour mark when Chhangte scored his first of the game and CFC’s 150th ISL goal. With the Mizo speedster hounding the backline, Raju Gaikwad’s pass back to the keeper was intercepted by Valskis, who then found Chhangte with a first-time flick. The CFC No. 7 made no mistake in curling it past Rehenesh to make it 4-1.
But KBFC and specifically Ogbeche just wouldn’t go away. The French-Nigerian striker found the bottom corner with a shot from outside the box four minutes later to halve the deficit before making it 4-3 on 76 minutes through a bullet header from Halicharan Narzary’s cross.
By this point, CFC had made all three changes as skipper Lucian Goian, midfielder Edwin Vanspaul and forward Andre Schembri made way for Masih Saighani, Thoi Singh and Germanpreet respectively.
With Kerala going for the equalizer, CFC were always a threat on the counter. And on one such break, Thoi’s diagonal ball found Chhangte outside the KBFC box. The India international winger took a touch and guided it into the bottom left corner to make it 5-3.
And astonishingly CFC added a sixth in injury time as Crivellaro found the tireless Valskis in space on yet another counter attack. The latter arrowed it in at the near post to give the match a tennis set scoreline of 6-3. Valskis’ brace now takes him to 12 goals at the top of the Golden Boot race, one clear of Ogbeche.
CFC will now be looking for their fifth consecutive win as they take on Bengaluru FC at the former’s last home game of the league stage a week later on Sunday February 9, 2020.