ISL 2018-19: Jeje, Nelson propel Chennaiyin to first home win

Goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua and Gregory Nelson saw Chennaiyin FC defeat Bengaluru FC 2-1 and secure its first home win of the Indian Super League 2018-19 season.

Gregory Nelson celebrates after scoring Chennaiyin FC's second goal in the 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League on Saturday.   -  M. VEDHAN

Form does indeed go out of the window in a derby game. Chennaiyin FC, reeling at the bottom of the points table and on a five-match losing streak, stunned Indian Super League table-topper Bengaluru FC 2-1 here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday.

Jeje Lalpekhlua, making his first start in over two months, provided the early breakthrough for Chennaiyin before Gregory Nelson reaffirmed the home side’s dominance towards the end of the first half by scoring the second. This was Jeje's first goal of the campaign.

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The visiting side, which had made five changes to the starting line-up from its last game, had controlled the proceedings until the half-hour mark when an error in midfield cost the side dear. Raphael Augusto nicked the ball of Harmanjot Khabra near the halfway line and made a surging run and squared the ball to C. K. Vineeth in space. Vineeth found Jeje through a deflection off Nishu Kumar’s legs and the striker blasted the ball through Germanpreet Singh’s fingertips to put Chennaiyin ahead.

Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrates after scoring the opener against Bengaluru FC.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

Jeje’s inclusion in the striker’s role meant C. K. Vineeth had to be moved to the right wing and he didn't disappoint. Vineeth was a willing runner on the flank and hugged the touchline to make himself available for the quick switch of play.

Just before the break, Anirudh Thapa found him with a racking diagonal pass on the right which he laid it on for Zohmingliana Ralte, who hung a cross on the face of Bengaluru’s goal. Chennaiyin’s no. 7 Nelson out-jumped Rino Anto to head the ball low to the right of a sprawling Germanpreet. BFC went into the break 2-0 down for the second successive game.

At the restart, the Blues, yet again, dominated possession but their passing was quicker this time. Chennaiyin was content playing the waiting game by sitting deep and hit the visitor on the break.

However, Francisco Hernandez's inswinging cross from the right in the 57th minute left Chennaiyin’s defence flat-footed. Sunil Chhetri, who had a subdued game on the left wing until that point, ghosted into the box unmarked to score off a diving header and halve the deficit.

Sunil Chhetri celebrates with Miku after scoring against Chennaiyin FC.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

But the comeback was never really on after that goal. Centre-back Eli Sabia marshalled Chennaiyin’s defence well to snuff out Bengaluru’s attacking threat for the remainder of the game.

Chennaiyin’s Francisco Fernandes had the opportunity to put the result beyond doubt on the counter-attack in added time but his shot from the right was wayward. The final whistle was greeted with rapturous noise from the home crowd after a hard-fought second victory of the campaign -- and a first win at home.