From the brink of relegation to the second division last season, Chennai City FC has surprised all comers in the new I-League season by setting the tone at the top of the table.
The side remains unbeaten in four matches with 10 points and is playing an expansive, attacking brand of football under the new manager Akbar Nawaz. On Tuesday, the Coimbatore-based side capped a landmark 2-1 victory over Kolkata giant East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, where it was thrashed 7-1 in the corresponding fixture last season.
Club owner Rohit Ramesh admitted that he didn't envisage the high-flying start for the club. "Honestly, I didn't [expect the start to the season]. I had told my management and the support staff to not be in the same position as we were in the last two years and then see what best we can do," said Rohit.
After the disappointing eighth-placed finish in March, Chennai City began its recruitment process as early as April in preparation for the new season. New signings and the Spanish trio Javier Pedro Manzi, Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez have forged an understanding between them in attack and have been causing problems aplenty for the opposition sides. Manzi has led the goal-scoring charts with four goals while Gordillo and Sandro got on the score-sheet against East Bengal.
"There was a clear-cut understanding that we had to recruit the foreigners as quickly as possible and we managed to do that. The moment the league got over, we managed to get the four Spaniards. Even with the Tamil Nadu players, we scouted them during the Chennai Football League and signed them up at the end of the league," said Rohit.
Chennai City's quick-passing, attacking football has yielded 11 goals, the most by any club thus far. "The way we are playing is impressive. Even against East Bengal, when we took the lead at 2-1, we weren't sitting back to protect the lead. We were pushing for the third. The link-up play, with not just the Spanish players but even the Indians in the line-up, is good to see," Rohit opined.
Although he distanced himself from talks of a fairytale run towards a maiden I-League title, Rohit was optimistic of a good season for the club.
"Our objective was to get a better position than eighth. Our target is still the same. There is still a long way to go. There are still some really good teams with some good players to play against. We are going one game at a time. We should improve every game. Let's see where we stand at the end of the league," said Rohit.
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