Leo Costa screamer helps Mumbai hold Chennaiyin FC

A 50th minute goal by Jeje Lalpekhlua looked to have been enough for Chennaiyin FC, but its profligacy came back to haunt it when Brazilian Leo Costa equalised for Mumbai City FC in the 88th minute through a left-footed screamer from outside the box.

Jeje Lalpekhlua Chennaiyin FC ISL

Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrates with team-mates after scoring the opening goal during the match between Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai City FC on Wednesday.   -  R. Ragu

There were goals scored. But there were goals conceded. In the end, it was all the same for Chennayin FC as it suffered yet another draw to end its first half of the ISL season.

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A 50th minute goal by Indian international striker Jeje Lalpekhlua looked to have been enough for the home team which had 14 shots on goal, but its profligacy came back to haunt it when Brazilian Leo Costa equalised for Mumbai City FC in the 88th minute through a left-footed screamer from outside the box.

Materazzi continues to change

Coach Marco Materazzi, absent from the touchline due to a suspension, continued to be Indian Super League’s ‘tinkerman’, making five changes to the squad that played out a goalless draw against Kerala Blasters.

Indian national team forward Jeje Lalpekhlua made it back into the starting line-up with David Succi making way for him. Chennaiyin’s last season’s stars Thoi Singh and Harmanjot Singh Khabra also made it to the squad with coach Materazzi sticking to the 4-3-3 formation.

Opposition coach Guimaraes, who had hinted about players carrying injuries in his pre-match press conference, started with his team’s highest goal scorer Matias Defederico, and Indian winger Jackichand Singh on the bench.

High tempo

The game began with great intensity, Chennaiyin looking to play at a higher tempo to avoid the same mistakes it made against Kerala. Thoi Singh, who missed the previous game after he hurt himself trying to kick a team-mate during practice, was a constant menace for the Mumbai defence, making marauding runs in the right wing.

Jeje, who won the AIFF player of the year award last season, was also a handful – a 14th minute last-ditch tackle by Mumbai defender Gerson Vieira preventing a certain goal after being played in by Khabra.

Interestingly for Mumbai, Sony Norde was taking up the position as the central striker while Forlan played a more withdrawn role in the right side. The team’s first big chance, perhaps its only genuine attempt at unlocking an unchanged Chennai defence apart from a 36th minute Forlan long-ranger, came when defender Vieira played a defence-splitting pass to left-back Lalhmangaihsanga. The full-back’s dangerous cross fell in no-man’s land though.

Chennaiyin dominates

Peluso was having a good game for Chennai and came close to scoring with a free-kick in the 22nd minute. But ‘keeper Albino Gomes pulled out a top-class save to keep the scores level. The Italian had two other attempts (31st and 34th minute) – both far-post curlers after cutting-in from the left-flank, both failing to work the keeper. The first half ended goalless.

Striker Dudu Omagbemi replaced Thoi Singh in the second half and it galvanised the Chennai squad which opened the scoring in the 50th minute. Raphael Augusto’s long-ranger was deflected away by the Mumbai defence but Jeje scored from the resultant corner — midfielder Sehnaj Singh failing to mark his target.

Mumbai manager Jackichand brought in Leo Costa in a bid to find the equaliser but Chennai continued to dominate proceedings. Jerry Lalrinzuala’s cross in the 56th minute from the left could not be directed towards the goal by Jeje. The Mizoram player made a run through the midfield to set up striker Dudu in the 69th minute but keeper Gomes pulled off a magnificent save to keep Mumbai in the match.

The match seemed to be heading in Chennaiyin’s favour till Leo Costa latched on to a pass from Norde to send a left-footed scorcher which keeper Duwayne Kerr could only watch and admire. With the draw, champion Chennaiyin FC lost a huge opportunity to go on top of the table. Mumbai will be happy to have salvaged a draw against a team that has dominated it in the small history of ISL.

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