Super Cup: Thapa stars as Chennaiyin FC comes from behind to reach semifinals

Mailson Alves and Anirudh Thapa struck in the space of nine minutes as Chennaiyin FC came back from being a goal down to reach the semifinals of the Super Cup.

Anirudh Thapa (R) scored and assisted one goal each as Chennaiyin FC came from behind to beat NorthEast United FC.   -  AIFF Media

An inspired display from Anirudh Thapa helped Chennaiyin FC edge past NorthEast United FC 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.

Mailson Alves and Thapa struck in the space of nine minutes as Chennaiyin came back from being a goal down to reach the semifinals. NorthEast’s second-choice striker Juan Mascia was guilty of missing a couple of close-range chances in the second half which could have overturned the deficit.

John Gregory would have been disappointed by the ease with which NorthEast’s opening goal materialised. Without much pressure, NorthEast strung together a 28-pass move from defence to register its first shot on target and won a corner kick inside the first 10 minutes.

As it happened | Super Cup 2019: Chennaiyin FC comes from behind to reach semifinals

From a short corner, Puitea played in Panagiotis Triadis down the right channel to catch Chennaiyin’s defence completely off-guard. The Greek winger struck the ball across the face of the goal and a waiting Rowllin Borges stabbed the ball into a near open net.

NorthEast moved the ball around with quick, short passes in the opposition half with Puitea pulling the strings. But without Bartholomew Ogbeche, who started from the bench, making the runs between the backline, it failed to convert its dominant possession into chances.

Chennaiyin needed a spark and it came through Anirudh Thapa after the half-hour mark. The diminutive midfielder worked his way down the right flank with Gregory Nelson to win a corner. Nelson took it short to Thapa, who crossed into the six-yard area for the Chennaiyin skipper Mailson Alves to head home with authority.

Mailson Alves celebrates with Chennaiyin FC head coach John Gregory after scoring the equaliser.   -  AIFF Media

 

In the 37 minute, Thapa pushed up and poked the ball off Puitea just outside NorthEast’s box with only Grgic and the goalkeeper Gurmeet Singh to beat. The India international raced forward, shifted the ball wide off Grgic before arrowing a shot low into the corner of the net with his weaker foot.

Puitea had the opportunity to redeem himself just before the half-time break. Eli Sabia’s failed clearance inside the box fell kindly for him, but his hurried shot went narrowly wide of the post.

It was all NorthEast in the second half, while Chennaiyin content with preserving its one-goal cushion. NorthEast coach Eelco Schattorie brought on Girik Khosla at the start of the second period and he made his presence felt on the right flank. The winger played the ball behind Chennaiyin left-back Todonba Singh to set up Juan Mascia in space inside the box, who smacked his shot high into the crossbar.

Gregory brought on a defensive reinforcement in the form of Chris Herd for Dhanpal Ganesh in the 70 minute, who was finding it difficult to cope with the pace of the game on his first start after a long-term injury.

NorthEast created another opportunity from a set-piece when Rowllin flicked down a header into the six-yard area but Mascia, this time, struck the outside of the post on the dive.

Schhatorie hooked off a center-back to introduce Ogbeche with less than 15 minutes to go. The Nigerian went for an acrobatic overhead kick in his short cameo but the easiest chance in the end fell for Borges, whose shot was blocked by the body of Mailson.

Chennaiyin defended in numbers in the last few minutes to see out the win, its first in three attempts against NorthEast this season, and extend its unbeaten record to five matches in all competitions.