Hyderabad, January 10, 2020: Chennaiyin FC moved to 7th in the Hero Indian Super League standings with a clinical 3-1 away win over Hyderabad FC at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium here on Friday. Nerijus Valskis’ brace and a Rafael Crivellaro strike proved the difference before Marcelinho scored a consolation goal for the hosts in the closing stages.
A first ISL away win in over a year moves CFC up to 12 points and 7th spot in the ISL table, meaning they are now four points off Mumbai City FC in the last play-off place. In their next encounter, they face ninth-placed NorthEast United at home in Chennai on Thursday January 16, 2020.
There was just one change to the CFC starting lineup as Edwin Vanspaul returned from suspension at right-back. Phil Brown made four changes to his HFC side going into this one, including bringing Kamaljit Singh back in goal.
The visitors could’ve taken the lead in as soon as the fifth minute, when Anirudh Thapa found Andre Schembri inside the box with a delightful through ball. The latter tried to lob Kamaljit but the HFC keeper was equal to it, standing his ground and pulling off a good save.
Hyderabad looked menacing on the break, and went close in the 19th minute through Spanish midfielder Nestor Benitez. Nikhil Poojary’s low cross from the left flank sat up perfectly for Nestor, who struck it sweetly from outside the box, his shot going just wide with Vishal Kaith wrong-footed in the CFC goal.
Kaith was called up again few minutes later as midfielder Marko Stankovic tried his luck from distance. The former Pune City custodian parried it well away from danger.
CFC started coming into their own after the half-hour mark, with Rafael Crivellaro showcasing some nifty footwork. A mazy run into the HFC box ended with a shot that stung Kamaljit’s gloves, the latter putting it out for a corner.
Then with five minutes to the break, CFC were gifted the opening goal after a howler by Ashish Rai. The defender’s back-pass to Kamaljit went straight to the expectant Valskis, who waited for support before squaring the ball to Rafael. The Brazilian’s shot did get a touch off Kamaljit, but looped into the net to make it 1-0.
There was nothing fortuitous about CFC’s second goal three minutes later though. Valskis allowed Schembri’s cut back to run across him, unleashing a fierce left-footed shot that flew into the top corner. It was all the Lithuanian striker’s presence of mind and awareness that led to the creation of space in the penalty area.
Chennaiyin went into the break with a healthy lead and came out raring to go for more. Ten minutes after the restart, Schembri had a great chance to make it 3-0, when Valskis found him in space on the right, putting him through one-on-one with the keeper. But the Maltese forward’s lob was too high as a big chance went begging.
CFC did make it 3-0 on 65 minutes as Valskis bagged his brace in style. Receiving the ball at the edge of the box on the left, he played a quick one-two with Rafael, before arrowing the ball into the bottom corner. Rafael’s flick in the build-up bamboozled the HFC back-line, allowing Valskis the extra second to make space and shoot. The goal took Valskis’ tally to seven goals, just one behind Ferran Corominas, Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri in the Golden Boot running.
With fifteen minutes to go, CFC made a double change as Germanpreet Singh and Schembri came off for Masih Saighani and Rahim Ali respectively. Romanian winger Dragos Firtulescu also came on soon after for Rafael, who put in another fantastic display with a goal and assist.
Marcelinho scored a consolation soon after, getting on the end of Stankovic’s long ball and firing it into the top corner.
But Valskis almost bagged his hat-trick in the closing stages, when Dragos’ through-ball sent him face-to-face with Kamaljit. He rounded the keeper and shot at goal, only for Poojary to clear it off the line.