Indian Super League: Chennaiyin FC denied win by late Odisha comeback

Nerijus Valskis struck a brace for Chennaiyin FC but it wasn't enough as his side played out a 2-2 draw with Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL).

Nerijus Valskis scored both goals for Chennaiyin FC in the 2-2 draw with Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Chennaiyin FC had to make the most out of its home games to rescue it faltering Indian Super League (ISL) season. After the high of Monday night against Hyderabad FC, Chennaiyin was frustrated by a 2-2 draw against Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.

Nerijus Valskis put Chennaiyin ahead twice in the second half after an uninspiring first-half display, but Odisha hit back through Xisco Hernandez and Aridane Santana. The result meant Chennaiyin could only climb a place up to eight on the points table, while Odisha remains at sixth.

Missed the last game? Catch up with all the action from the Chennaiyin FC vs Odisha FC game on our ISL special podcast, The Full Time Show:

 

Odisha pinned Chennaiyin to its own half for the majority of the first half, not allowing the home side to dictate proceedings. Chennaiyin, playing with an unchanged XI from its victory over Hyderabad, struggled to come to grips with the quick interchanges between the Odisha midfielders and forwards. The home side largely relied on counter-attacks to make rare forays forward.

Defensive midfielder Masih Saighani struggled to keep up with the pace of the game with Xisco running rings around him. In the seventh minute, his back pass nearly proved costly but for two crucial interceptions by Eli Sabia and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.

Chennaiyin FC players celebrate Nerijus Valskis' brace during the 2-2 draw with Odisha FC in the Indian Super League on Thursday.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

Vishal was alert between the sticks and rushed out to cut out through balls played behind his defence to stop Nandhakumar Sekhar and Jerry Mawihmingthanga to have shots on goal.

Gregory’s frustration came to the fore when he turned to the bench angrily and asked Germanpreet Singh to warm-up in the 25th minute in reaction to another misplaced pass from Masih. The midfielder completed seven out of his 10 passes in the first half before he was replaced by Germanpreet at the start of the second period.

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Both teams went into the break goalless but the substitutions in the second period had a big say in the outcome of the game. Odisha, too, made a change at the break when former Chennaiyin man Bikramjit Singh came on for Vinit Rai in central midfield.

It was Bikramjit’s misplaced pass from which Chennaiyin opened the scoring. Raphael Crivellaro intercepted the ball to find Thapa in acres of space in the middle, who waited for the run of Thoi Singh on the right before playing him through. The winger squared it into the centre of Odisha’s box, where Valskis ran in unmarked to sweep the ball into the corner of the net for his first goal in Chennaiyin colours.

Aridane Santana earned his side a crucial point as his late strike steered Odisha FC to a draw against Chennaiyin FC.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

Odisha immediately hit back in the 54th minute through Xisco. Jerry crept in behind Tondonba Singh inside the box to get on to the end of a cross from Nandhakumar. Jerry pulled in Kaith away from goal before playing a pass into the path of Xisco, who fired in a first-time shot to level the scores.

Despite the equaliser, Chennaiyin continued to press forward in search of the winner. Odisha coach Josep Gombau's decision to remove centre-back Carlos Delgado for Martin Guedes perhaps aided Chennaiyin more than his side.

Tebar slotted in the centre-back role and Lallianzuala Chhangte raced in behind him after being played through by Thapa, but Shubham Sarangi recovered to block the winger’s shot.

From the resulting corner in the 71st minute, Crivellaro delivered an out-swinging ball which Valskis leapt high to head into the corner of the net, away from Arshdeep Singh’s dive. For the second game in a row, it seemed like Valskis would be the match-winner but Odisha refused to give in.

The turning point came when Guedes stabbed a high ball towards Santana, who struck the ball fiercely on the turn into the left corner to stun the home crowd for the second time in the game.

Chennaiyin came close to nick it in the end again through Valskis, but his flicked header from a free-kick went agonisingly wide of the far post.

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