ISL 2019: Valskis propels Chennaiyin to thrilling win

Nerijus Valskis powered Chennaiyin FC to its maiden ISL 2019 victory with a stoppage time winner against Hyderabad FC on Monday.

Chennaiyin FC's Andre Schembri celebrates after putting his side in the lead against Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League (ISL 2019) on Monday.   -  R. Ragu

Chennaiyin FC tasted glory for the first time this season as it clinched a dramatic 2-1 win over Hyderabad FC with goals in added time in the Indian Super League (ISL 2019) clash here on Monday.

Andre Schembri ended Chennaiyin’s goal drought with the opener in the 92nd minute but Matthew Kilgallon equalised three minutes later. However, Nerijus Valskis emerged the hero with his winner in the final minute of the game. 

Early in the game, Chennaiyin threatened the Hyderabad defence through Anirudh Thapa and Thoi Singh but the duo’s build-up from the right went in vain as the final effort from Rafael Crivellaro was blocked.

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Crivellaro was in the centre of things soon after as his through pass set up Lallianzuala Chhangte in the 14th minute. With Nikhil Poojary marking Chhangte in the Hyderabad box, the Chennaiyin midfielder’s shot was kept out by goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh, who charged off his line.

Chennaiyin FC's Nerijus Valskis emerged the hero with his winner in the final minute of the game.    -  R. Ragu

 

Four minutes later, Hyderabad found itself in trouble again as a clumsy clearance from Rohit Kumar forced Kamaljit to pull off a goal-line save. Crivellaro started the move from the middle as he released Chhangte on the left flank, whose cut-back was loosely intercepted. 

In the 25th minute, Chennaiyin had the best chance of the opening half when Thoi’s blistering run from the right, combined with a sublime cross, set up Chhangte perfectly on the other end. Left unmarked, Chhangte rose high but sent his header wide of the post.

The sub-par finishing from the two-time champion continued as Thapa failed to find the net from close range after he was found by Chhangte in the box, in the 32nd minute. Kilgallon cleared the attempt off the goal-line after Kamaljit failed to block it through his legs.

Hyderabad’s attack was silent in the first half with only Marcelinho and Marko Stankovic creating chances. Just before the break, Robin Singh had the opportunity to put Phil Brown's side ahead but the striker blasted his left-footed shot into the side netting. 

Chennaiyin's misery continued in the second half when Thoi’s shot from the box was kept out by Kamaljit, who made a vital touch to parry it away. Kamaljit continued to keep Hyderabad in the game with his commendable performance between the sticks as he pulled off a flying save to deny Crivellaro from distance.

Around the hour mark, defender Eli Sabia tried to lift the home side's spirit with a promising strike from 20 yards out, but his shot struck the crossbar.

Things, however, took a drastic turn towards the tail end of the game as the crowd witnessed three goals in quick succession. With five minutes of additional time introduced, substitute Schembri induced life into the home side as he found the net with a left-footed strike in the 92nd minute. 

Chennaiyin’s lead was short-lived as Kilgallon found the equaliser just three minutes later with a thumping header. But, Valskis swung the tie in Chennaiyin's favour with the winning goal moments before the final whistle. Charging from the middle towards the box, he chipped Kamaljit at goal and wheeled away in celebration.

Chennaiyin thus moved up the points table and now sits ninth, with four points from five games, while Hyderabad moved to the bottom spot.

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