Kolkata, February 16, 2020: Chennaiyin FC continued their charge to the Hero Indian Super League play-offs with a dominant 3-1 win over ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday. CFC made it 2-0 in the first half through Rafael Crivellaro and Andre Schembri only for Roy Krishna to halve the deficit; before Nerijus Valskis’ 13th goal of the season in stoppage time sealed the three points on a memorable night in Kolkata.
The victory sees Chennaiyin climb to 5th place with 25 points, one point behind Mumbai City FC with a game in hand. And it will be CFC and MCFC facing off next on Friday February 21st, in what will be a winner-takes-all clash for the elusive fourth spot.
It was a welcome return from suspension into midfield for Anirudh Thapa as he made his 50th ISL appearance. Also back in the starting lineup was the Maltese forward Schembri, who would later go on to score his 5th goal of the campaign.
After the opening exchanges, Chennaiyin stamped their authority on the game and took the lead through Crivellaro’s wonderful goal in the sixth minute. Eli Sabia won the ball back in the middle and passed it to Crivellaro, who dribbled expertly to the edge of the ATK box before coolly passing the ball into the back of the net with keeper Arindam Bhattacharya flat footed. This the Brazilian’s seventh strike of what’s been a memorable debut campaign as CFC’s creator-in-chief.
Crivellaro then set up Chhangte, sending the latter one-on-one with Ariandam. But the Mizo winger’s goalbound effort was saved by the keeper’s leg and then cleared from danger.
ATK right-back Prabir Das then sent an inviting cross into the box which was headed just wide of the near post by ISL Golden Boot leader Roy Krishna.
It was all Chennaiyin after that with some crisp passing and movement from all quarters of the pitch. They had the ball in goal through Schembri’s header from a near-post Eli Sabia flick-on but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Edwin Vanspaul also went close with a brilliant curling effort following a Chhangte cut-back; but his shot was stopped by a diving Arindam astutely from finding the bottom corner.
Schembri did legitimately score in the 39th minute from a Thapa corner, when Arindam completely missed his catch and the former Malta international made no mistake in nodding it in to make it 2-0.
ATK though struck an immediate riposte from the kick-off with a long ball that caught out both Lucian Goian and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. Krishna ghosted in behind Goian and stabbed it in to make 2-1 as Kaith was caught in no man’s land.
Krishna had another big chance in first half stoppage time after Sumit Rathi’s long ball sent him through on goal, but his shot after rounding Kaith went wide.
CFC began the second-half brightly and should’ve reinstated their two-goal cushion in the 49th minute. Crivellaro did well to sort his feet and unleash a curling effort which was saved by Arindam. The rebound fell to Chhangte with the goal at his mercy, however the CFC No. 7 dragged his shot wide when it seemed easier to score.
The visitors then had a penalty claim waved away when Victor Mongil seemed to have pulled down Valskis as he went for the ball.
ATK were throwing everything at CFC at the other end with the latter’s defensive unit having to dig deep, along with the tireless Thapa and Edwin providing cover too.
Krishna netted at the near post with a header in the 85th minute, but he was clearly offside with the linesman making a crucial call. Then in the 89th minute, Mongil had ATK’s best chance to equalize after Kaith dropped the ball at his feet following a free-kick. Mongil looped the ball towards an empty net but it went agonizingly wide of the post.
And in fourth minute of injury time, Valskis wrapped up all three points as he was sent through on goal by Thapa’s aerial pass. The Lithuanian expertly sent it over Arindam from 40 yards with a first-time lob that rolled into the net.
The victory means CFC have won 5 of their last 6 under Owen Coyle and scored 25 goals in his period of 10 games in-charge so far. An all-important encounter against Mumbai City on Friday beckons but right now CFC will be enjoying a fantastic result in Kolkata.