ISL 2019-20: Chhangte shines for Chennaiyin in dramatic 3-1 win over Blasters

Lallianzuala Chhangte scored one and made on as Chennaiyin FC beat Kerala Blasters 3-1 in a drama-filled first half in Chennai on Friday.

Chennaiyin FC celebrates Nerijus Valskis' 40th minute goal in a 3-1 win over Kerala Blasters on Friday.   -  ISL Media

This match could have been about a lot of things — Chennaiyin FC’s three first-half goals in the first home game in charge for new boss Owen Coyle; Kerala Blasters’ Bartholomew Ogbeche returning from injury to score a thunderbolt at the same venue where he scored a first half hat-trick last season; Lallianzuala Chhangte finally coming good with a frightening display of pace and finishing.

But, all these above-mentioned highlights took a side-step for a refereeing howler in Chennaiyin's thrilling 3-1 win over Kerala Blasters here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday.

The Indian Super League (ISL) this season has had its fair share of dubious decisions and referee Om Prakash Thakur added a high profile error to the growing list.

The scoreline was square at 1-1 in the 25th minute when Thakur chalked off Chennaiyin’s goal after consultation with his assistant. The decision drew ire from both the Chennaiyin players and a boisterous home crowd but Chennaiyin put it behind quickly to come out with the much-needed win.

It was Chennaiyin which was quick off the blocks from the first whistle and was rewarded for pressing Blasters’ passing out from the back. In the fourth minute, Rafael Crivellaro won the ball and ran through the back four to square it across the face of the goal for Andre Schmebri to poke the ball into an open goal.

READ | As it happened

But the lead didn’t last long as the away side hit back in the 14th minute through Ogbeche after a clever set up from a set-piece. Jessel Carneiro’s decoy run pulled Chennaiyin’s wall apart as Mario Arques rolled the ball across goal for Ogbeche to run and power the ball into the net from 25 yards out.

Blasters seemed to be in control from there on up until the refereeing howler which then seemingly altered the course of the match.

Thakur wrongly awarded a free-kick in favour of Chennaiyin after what appeared to be a foul from Anirudh Thapa on Seityasen Singh. Nerijus Valskis quickly restarted play which left the Blasters’ defence flat-footed as the striker went up the pitch to complete the simplest of tap ins. The referee signalled the goal which sparked outrage from the visiting team players and staff. After five minutes of intense remonstration from Blasters, Thakur chalked off the goal to the dismay of Chennaiyin and gave the free-kick to the away side.

Ironically, Chennaiyin won the ball straight from the free-kick and went up the field to restore its advantage through Chhangte. Crivellaro shielded the ball away from his markers before finding Valskis, who laid on to the path of Chhangte to slot it away from the hand of T.P. Rehenesh. The goal sparked wild celebrations in the Chennaiyin bench and the stands.

READ | No VAR but goal disallowed in Chennaiyin-Kerala Blasters ISL game

It was Rehenesh’s poor judgement in rushing out of his box which helped Chennaiyin double its advantage 10 minutes later. Thapa hit a long ball behind Blasters’ defence which Chhangte latched on to and lifted it over Rehenesh’s head towards the empty goal. The ball bounced off the post and remained in play as Valskis added his fifth goal of the season by poking in a finish.

Blasters’ coach Eelco Schattorie, who was suspended for the game after his second yellow card of the season, looked on stunned from the stands as the teams went into the break after five minutes of added time.

Ogbeche's injury towards the end of the first half meant he couldn’t pull off another rescue act for Schattorie as he had done for NorthEast United FC here last year.

The assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed brought on Moustapha Gning in place of Ogbeche, Sahal Abdul Samad was introduced at the 61st minute to add some impetus to the attack but he failed to make an impact playing from the left.

Chennaiyin threatened on the counter on many occasions in the second period through Chhangte and substitute Dragos Firtulescu but fluffed its efforts. Centre-back Eli Sabia received marching orders for a second yellow card in the added time but Coyle’s men saw out the clock easily to record its second win of the campaign.

The result lifted Chennaiyin to eighth above Blasters, who now remain winless in eight matches.

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