ISL: Chennaiyin sharpshooter Jeje wants to strike gold

Chennaiyin FC's star striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, who has scored seven goals in the current ISL season, has his eyes set on the Golden Boot award.

In his fourth season at the club, Jeje Lalpekhlua feels the current Chennaiyin FC team is the best one since the club's inception.   -  Aashin Prasad

Before a ball was kicked in the fourth season of the Indian Super League, Chennaiyin FC striker Jeje Lalpekhlua claimed that this was the best Chennaiyin side since its inception.

"The results are there to see," Jeje told Sportstar on Friday.

Jeje might be justified in his remark as Chennaiyin is only a point behind newcomer Bengaluru FC in the points table after 12 matches. With the playoffs approaching, the John Gregory coached side is currently locked in a tug of war for the top spot with next Tuesday's opponent.

READ: This is the best Chennaiyin side, says Jeje

Donning the blue kit for a fourth consecutive season, Jeje acknowledged the firepower which shot the Marco Materazzi managed team to the ISL title in 2015. “Without Stiven Mendoza we wouldn't have won the title. He scored twice in two minutes to win us the championship against FC Goa. Although we don't have any special individual talent, we have a strong team and that is the key to success this season,”  Jeje reasoned.

Collective effort on show

CFC has 10 different goal scorers this season, one more than third placed FC Pune City, and four more than table-topper Bengaluru and free-scoring Goa.

“We have goals coming from all around the team. When the attackers have not been able to get the goals, players from other parts of the pitch contribute. (Henrique) Sereno headed in the winner against Pune and Dhanpal (Ganesh) did the same against Bengaluru FC. Inigo (Calderon) and Mailson (Alves) have also chipped in,” explained the Mizoram striker.

The club has also dug deep into its reserves when faced with injuries and suspensions. “When Raphael Augusto got injured, Rene (Mihelic) came in and performed. When Sereno was suspended, Dhana (Dhanchandra Singh) stepped up. The bench strength is good this season. We are moving in the right direction,” said Jeje.

Bengaluru’s captain Sunil Chhetri is currently leading the goal scoring charts for an Indian player with eight strikes. With eight goal in 12 games, he has already broken the record for most number of goals in a single season for an Indian player.

Race for the golden boot

Jeje, who has found the back of the net on seven occasions in the current campaign, wants to become the top marksman in the league. “I hope I can win the golden boot,” he said. He currently trails Goa's Ferran Corominas by five goals.

However, he is pleased with the numbers racked up by the Indian strikers so far. Mumbai City FC’s Balwant Singh has scored six goals and is also in the reckoning.

“There is healthy competition between the Indian strikers and it is good for football in the country. It was not the case in the last three seasons of ISL where most clubs used foreign strikers in their line-ups. I hope we can score more than the foreign strikers,” added the 27-year-old.

After a slow start to the season, Jeje seems to have found his footing. He broke his duck with a brace in Chennaiyin’s frantic 3-2 win over ATK in December. This included an injury-time winner. At the end of the game, Gregory pointed out that he was using the Indian in a more demanding role than under Materazzi.

“Materazzi played with two strikers and now I play as a lone striker. I need to work harder with a lot of chasing around the defenders when I'm out of possession. It’s not an unfamiliar position as I play the same role in the Indian set up,” explained Jeje.

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