Jeje Lalpekhlua’s return to form bodes well for Chennaiyin FC and its fans. With two instinctive goals, the chunky forward had starred in his team’s 3-2 win over ATK on Thursday . It means the defenders of Mumbai City FC - Chennaiyin’s next opponent - will be more anxious and wary of him when the two teams meet at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Defender Lucian Goian, the Mumbai captain, admitted the challenge for his side of minimising the threat of Jeje. After having led his side to a draw against Kerala Blasters , Goian turned his focus on the task at hand. “I like [Jeje] very much because he is a scorer. It is difficult to play against him, I remember from last year. We know him and know what needs to be done,” he said.
Goian, with 30 tackles in four games, and custodian Amrinder Singh, with 16 saves in four games, head the defensive and goalkeeping list in ISL 2017 so far. The co-ordination between the pair will be critical in keeping Jeje quiet.
Chennaiyin coach John Gregory was elated at Jeje’s return to form. He said, “I am relieved for him, because when a large part of your job is to score goals, which he did for the club and his country, the fact that he had not scored going into the fourth match was unusual. Fortunately other players had scored, which takes a lot of pressure off him.”
Gregory added: “We just told him to carry on his work. He has been working really hard on the field, but not getting the chances he had in the past. When you have quality, chances will come. He came up with the goods when needed the other night and I am really delighted.”
Chennaiyin’s offensive capabilities are boosted further by the return of midfielder Raphael Augusto after a break. Gregory, confirming the Brazilian’s availability for selection, explained why he had been rested for the previous match. “We look at the longer picture, the season is long and if you give players too much of an overload at the start, you may lose them for longer periods. Rafael has had a bit of rest, we managed to win without him, it shows the others are capable. He is back and ready to play.”
Golan also drew attention to his team’s potent striker Balwant Singh. “We hope Balwant ends up on the winning side. We have to be prepared for everything, the most important thing is to control the rhythm of the game.”