Chennai, November 28, 2019: Nerijus Valskis was on target a second game running, as he scored a brace in Chennaiyin FC’s 2-2 draw against visitors Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here today. The Lithuanian striker gave CFC the lead on both occasions, only to be pegged back by goals from Xisco Hernandez and Aridane Santana for OFC. The Hero Indian Super League encounter between both sides saw all four goals scored in the second half, after what was an insipid first period.
The result sees CFC move to eighth in the standings with five points, level with Mumbai City FC who’ve played a game less. Odisha remain in sixth spot with as many points after their third consecutive draw.
Chennaiyin Head Coach John Gregory opted for an unchanged starting eleven from the side that beat Hyderabad FC 2-1 two days back. As for Odisha, Head Coach Josep Gombau made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with ATK last, as Xisco and Vinit Rai started.
It was a cautious start from both sides with not much happening in the opening exchanges. CFC keeper Vishal Kaith was called upon though in the 8th minute, when Xisco’s snapshot following Santana’s blocked shot was saved well by the Himachal shot-stopper.
Odisha were seeing more of the ball but there was no real danger to the CFC goal in the ensuing minutes. Half time came with both sides showcasing a lack of creativity in front of goal. Gregory made a tactical switch at the interval, replacing Masih Saighani with Indian midfielder Germanpreet Singh.
Gombau’s men could have gone ahead in the opening minute of the second half, when Jerry put his effort just wide of the far post after he beat the offside trap and raced on to a Santana pass.
But soon after, Chennaiyin broke the deadlock through a well taken goal. Rafael Crivellaro pounced on OFC substitute Bikramjit Singh’s mispass and freed Anirudh Thapa on the right. The young midfielder showed composure to pick out the overlapping Thoi Singh, who squared it for Valskis in the middle of the OFC box. The Lithuanian striker made no mistake in slotting it low past Arshdeep Singh in goal to make it 1-0.
CFC’s joy though was short-lived, as OFC equalized as the hosts’ defence went napping. Nandhakumar Sekar’s cross from the left found Jerry at the other end, who controlled well before his cross was deflected into Xisco’s path by an onrushing Vishal Kaith. The OFC No. 10’s first time shot was deflected into goal as Eli Sabia desperately tried to clear.
CFC didn’t rest up though, as Germanpreet Singh impressed in the middle of the park, moving the ball with gusto. His movement and link-up with the likes of Rafael, Thapa, Thoi and Lallianzuala Chhangte added a fresh dimension.
Romanian winger Dragos Firtulescu then came on for Thoi Singh, and immediately got into the game.
Dragos made an instant impact on 71 minutes, helping CFC regain the lead from a corner. The Romanian picked out the unmarked Valskis in the middle of the box, whose inch-perfect header to the bottom right corner made it 2-1 to CFC. The Chennaiyin No. 9 seems to have hit a purple patch with three goals in two games after not netting in his first four outings.
Valskis was in the centre of it all again a few minutes later as CFC had a huge penalty appeal waved away by the referee. The Lithuanian who was through on goal, seemed to have been brought down by Narayan Das who was the last man.
With the final ten minutes approaching, Rafael Crivellaro made way for young Indian striker Rahim Ali.
Odisha though drew level in the 82nd minute, as CFC afford Nandha far too much space on the left, the Tamil Nadu winger beating three players and finding Martin Guedes at the edge of the box. His first-time pass found Santana in the box, the striker scoring on the half-turn to make it 2-2.
A frustrated CFC went hammer and tongs at OFC for the winner in the final moments, with Valskis coming closest again in the 91st minute. Dragos’ free-kick was headed goalward by the No. 9, only for his effort to go agonizingly wide of the far post.