Chennaiyin holds down the violent forces of Odisha for a thrilling draw

All square at the Marina Arena as two sides fighting for the Top 6 slip up

The Gameweek 18 of the 2022-23 Indian Super League kicked off in style as the ISL universe witnessed a thrilling 2-2 saga at Marina Arena. Chennaiyin and Odisha kept the battle for the 6th playoff ticket on a triple-threat mode after sharing one each match-point on Thursday. 

The visitors took the lead twice in the match through the strikes of Diego Mauricio (24′) and Isak Ralte (47′) while the skipper Anirudh Thapa (25′) and Abdenasser El Khayati (57′) emerged as the savior for the Chennai Blues on both occasions. 

The Dutch playmaker Abdenasser El Khayati finally made his awaited return to the field after completing his recovery which Thomas Brdaric was betokening for a long time. The domestic stalwarts Gurmukh Singh and Edwin Sydney Vanspaul also returned to the action to bolster the Manchans’ defensive line. 

The visitors also made a couple of changes in Starting Eleven by including the likes of Isak Ralte and Isaac Vanmalawa while leaving out Raynier Fernandes and Jerry Mawihmingthanga. Meanwhile, Odisha’s high-profile winter transfer Aniket Jadhav was spotted on the substitute bench of his new home for the first time.  

The visitors turned up for this encounter, slaying their away sky-blue kits for the first time this season while the home team was donning the traditional all-blue colors. Diego Mauricio from the Eastern Dragons’ camp took the first kick of the game and kick-started the saga at a swift pace. Marina Machans was determined to take an early lead in front of home fans which was quite evident from their very first move.  

However, the deadlock of the scoreline was broken by the visiting side who got the reward for their disciplined approach in the initial stages. It was the star Brazilian striker Diego Mauricio of Odisha who vincible Samik Mitra’s guard in the 24th minute to net the opening goal of the match. The referees also garnered criticism for allowing the goal as the scorer Mauricio was seen in an offside position when Isak Ralte released the decisive pass. 

Owing to the Chennaiyin skipper’s clinical finish, it took less than a minute for the Tamil Nadu-based outfit to nullify the trailing deficit. The young Machans left-back Akash Sangwan initiated the move by collecting the ball from midfield and driving it to the left flank affluently to directly deliver it into the box. Akash’s flying cross met with a flawless header from Anirudh Thapa who went on to register the maiden goal of his captaincy stint. 

Just a couple of minutes after Chennaiyin’s equalizing goal, the Juggernauts once again launched an attack which resulted in Isak penetrating Samik’s guard. However, the goal was eventually ruled out as offside by the assistant referee from the sidelines despite the replay showing a different picture.

The Marina Machans continued their efforts to somehow find the breakthrough for the rest of the half but all of their moves lacked finishes and the scoreline remained equivalent to 1-1 at the half-time whistle. 

Odisha commenced the second-half action with a bang after once again taking a driving seat in the 47th minute to regain the lead. The referees were unable to turn down Isak Ralte’s attempt to grace the scoresheet as the well-positioned Vanlalruatfela struck a clean and neat strike this time. The local lad Nandhakumar Sekar played an instrumental role in the movement and also bagged an assist under his helm. 

The Mizo prodigy was on the scoresheet for the first time

The Mizo prodigy was on the scoresheet for the first time 

Marina Machans took their time to settle down in the latter half and steadily started to retrieve their loosened grip on the game by smashing another equalizing strike. The Dutchman El Khayati turned his comeback game into a memorable night after pulling off a momentous equalizer with assistance from Vincy Barretto. 

The referee Pratik Mondal blew the full-time whistle and made it official for both of the combatants to share the points and keep the playoffs qualification riddle unsolved. 

Chennaiyin may have managed to fetch better statistics than their counterparts but they never seemed to be in full control at any point in the play. The Juggernauts kept their primary focus on defending while their offensive unit capitalized on limited chances to snatch a crucial away point at Marina Arena.  

Odisha is set to return to their fortress Kalinga Stadium after three successive away fixtures to feature in a home game for the first time since the first week of January. The Juggernauts will host Carlos Pena’s in-form Goa side on Monday.

On the other hand, Chennaiyin will be travelling in the neighboring state to face the arch-rivals Kerala Blasters on Tuesday in the forthcoming matchday.