Chennaiyin FC endured its first AFC Cup defeat in a 3-2 loss to Abahani Limited Dhaka at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Wednesday.
C.K. Vineeth put the visitor ahead in the 6th minute but Abahani came from behind in the second half with two goals in five minutes. Isaac Vanmalsawma pulled Chennaiyin level in the 74th minute, but Mamunul Islam’s late goal handed the Dhaka side all three points.
The result pulled Abahani level on seven points alongside Chennaiyin in the Group E, though the ISL side remains top on goal difference.
Head Coach John Gregory, who signed a new one-year deal at the club last week, made three changes to the side that defeated Abahani 1-0 in Ahmedabad.
The visitor started the game in a superb fashion as an unmarked Vineeth converted Isaac’s corner kick with a tap-in at the far post. Eli Sabia had a goal disallowed for offside after he turned in Vineeth’s flick from another set-piece.
Chennaiyin custodian Karanjit was called into action for the first time in the 20th minute when he parried away Abahani striker Belfort's low drive. Sunday Chizoba and Jewel Rana went close for the home team, but missed narrowly as Chennaiyin went into the break with a 1-0 goal lead.
The second half begun at a frantic pace as the both defences were stretched. In the 65th minute, Abahani struck the equaliser as Belfort got on the end of a long ball before dribbling past Mailson and curled a shot out of Karanjit’s reach.
Five minutes later, Abahani went 2-1 up when Masih Saighani's curling freekick bounced off the crossbar into the net.
In the 74th minute, substitute Thoi Singh helped Chennaiyin restore the parity when he squared a pass for Isaac for a tap-in.
Karanjit then made a brilliant save in the 84th minute to deny Belfort from close range but was unable to stop Mamunul Islam's 88th-minute strike which flew into the top corner.
After a four-week break, Chennaiyin will take on Minerva Punjab in Guwahati in its penultimate AFC Cup group game on Wednesday 19 June.
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