ISL 2018-19: Impressive Thoi Singh unable to arrest Chennaiyin's slump

Steve Coppell’s ATK played the percentages well and helped by two defensive lapses from Chennaiyin, recorded its fourth win of the season

ATK's Manuel Lanzarote celebrates his goal against Chennaiyin FC.   -  M. Vedhan

He has been Chennaiyin FC’s best player this season. He starred tonight with a beautiful goal and an assist towards the end, but Thoi Singh’s individual performance wasn’t enough to even win a point for Chennaiyin FC here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday.

Steve Coppell’s ATK played the percentages well and helped by two defensive lapses from Chennaiyin, recorded its fourth win of the season to propel itself to fifth while Chennaiyin languishes in eighth, with only goal difference separating it and ninth-placed FC Pune City.

MATCH CENTRE

Jayesh Rane was, after Thoi, the standout player of the match. He opened the scoring with a long-range effort which was followed by Manuel Lanzarote converting two penalties that ATK was gifted by Eli Sabia and Carlos Salom, both inexplicably handling the ball in the area in either half. Thoi drew Chennaiyin level after Jayesh’s wonder strike and assisted the team’s second on the night, with Issac the goal-scorer.

The first half was full of action, ATK edging Chennaiyin FC with the chances it created and the overall quality of its attacking play. Jayesh, playing on the right of an attacking three behind Balwant Singh, was irrepressible. He combined beautifully with Manuel Lanzarote and exploited the space that the attack-minded Jerry Lalrinzuala consistently left behind.

 

Such was his involvement in ATK’s attacking play that him scoring the first goal of the match wasn’t really a surprise. It was a spectacular 25-yard strike in the 14th minute, drawing a huge roar from the home crowd and leaving Sanjiban Ghosh in the Chennaiyin goal with no chance of making a save.

With Chennaiyin and the home crowd crying for inspiration from somebody, up stepped Thoi, the side’s best performer this season, to draw his team level. Vanmalsawma, though, kept the ball in play from an Andrea Orlandi corner, jinked his way past Noussair El Maimouni and found Mailson Alves on the edge of the ATK box. Without taking a touch, Alves played a nicely-weighted pass with the outside of his right foot onto the path of Thoi, who, lurking centrally, drove hard and low to find the bottom right-hand corner. It was a goal that came against the run of play but instilled belief in the Chennaiyin players, who were rallied by the raucous home crowd. 

Thoi Singh (C) was impressive on the night with a goal and an assist. - PTI

Defensive errors haunt host

With just a minute of the half left to play, Chennaiyin suffered from another defensive mistake. Brazilian Sabia was the culpable party once again, handling the ball that was not quite on target and probably covered by Ghosh in the Chennaiyin goal. The penalty decision was an easy one for the referee. Lanzarote stepped up and converted the penalty, sending Ghosh the wrong way. It was the worst way to end the half as far as Chennaiyin was concerned.

Buoyed by a strong finish to the first half, ATK was the better of the two teams in the early minutes of the second period with Gerson Vieira testing Ghosh early on from distance.

John Gregory made a substitution at the start of the second half, replacing Jerry with N. Tondonba, who created Chennaiyin’s first real chance of the second half. Thoi got on the end of a flighted cross into the box but he couldn’t convert from four yards out.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, Gregory made a double substitution, bringing on Anirudh Thapa for Orlandi and introducing Carlos Salom in place of Jeje. Though, neither of them was able to have a positive effect on Chennaiyin.

Knockout blow

Salom was the subject of Chennaiyin conceding the second penalty of the night by inexplicably catching the ball in the area, which made the referee’s job easier. Lanzarote stepped up yet again and side-footed the ball low to the right of Ghosh.

ATK’s third goal almost sucked the life out of the home team, but Thoi offered some life to what appeared to be a lost contest with a minute of the regulation time left to play. He played a delicious cross from the right wing, trying to pick out Salom. He couldn’t get on the end of it, but, unmarked at the backpost, Vanmalsawma tapped in from close range to send the match into a grandstand finish.

However, ATK held on amid the pressure of Chennaiyin’s push for an equaliser.