Koman and Borisyuk return sparks Chennaiyin’s return to winning ways

Chennaiyin showed great character to bounce back after conceding early

Chennaiyin handed NorthEast United a 2-1 defeat in ‘Match 68’ of the 2021-22 Indian Super League as Ariel Borisyuk and Vladimir Koman were on target for the Marina Machans whilst Laldanmawia Ralte scored for the Highlanders.

Chennaiyin head coach Bozidar Bandovic made three changes to the starting XI that drew 1-1 against Hyderabad. Foreign midfielders Borysiuk and Koman replaced Germanpreet Singh and Edwin Sydney Vanspaul respectively, while to maintain overseas count, Mirlan Murzaev had to make way for Rahim Ali.

Quite surprisingly, NorthEast United head coach Khalid Jamil made only one change to the team that was handed a 2-0 defeat by Odisha, replacing Mapuia with Ralte. New overseas acquisitions Marco Sahanek and Marcelinho could only make the bench.

Chennaiyin dominated the proceedings right from the start and came close to taking the lead in the 9th minute when Koman found Nerijus Valskis inside the box with a clever pass. The Lithuanian marksman’s strike was a powerful one, but Mirshad Michu was up to the task in the Highlanders’ goal.

Jamil’s men tried to retaliate immediately as VP Suhair and Ralte tried their luck out with venomous strikes, but both efforts went sailing into the stands. 

The Marina Machans kept knocking on the NorthEast goal and had two gilt-edged chances between the 19th and 21st minute. The first chance fell to Ninthoi Meetei who found himself at the receiving end of an Anirudh Thapa pass but blazed his shot over the goal. Valskis tried to thread a defense-splitting ball for Thapa a couple of minutes later, but a spectacular Provat Lakra interception averted the danger.

The first half of this game was an exhibition of incredible misses, as both teams continued squandering fantastic opportunities. Ralte failed to tuck home a one-versus-one chance from an Imran Khan pass in the 29th minute. In the next three minutes, Ali found himself through on goal twice with only Mirshad to beat, but he failed to convert either of those chances.

The deadline was finally broken in the 35th minute by NorthEast United, courtesy of a Debjit Majumder howler. In an attempt to punch a corner off to safety, the Chennaiyin custodian ended up providing Ralte with the simplest of chances to score from a handshaking distance and the Mizoram attacker obliged.

The Highlanders had a bright start in the second half but Chennaiyin equalized against the run of play in the 52nd minute. Borysiuk took a shot from outside the box which was directed straight at Mirshad, but a big deflection off Sehnaj Singh wrong-footed the goalkeeper before finding the back of the net.

Having sensed blood, Bandovic’s team took only five minutes to get the crucial lead. Mashood Shereef’s foul on Thapa gave them a freekick in a dangerous area at the left flank and Koman’s set-piece was precisely directed at the top-right corner.

Marcelinho impressed in his NorthEast United debut

Marcelinho impressed in his NorthEast United debut

Jamil tried to inject fresh legs by bringing on Marcelinho and Sahanek and the former nearly got an assist in the 67th minute. His curling corner was headed by Suhair but it was agonizingly wide of the far post.

The Brazilian winger came up with another sublime corner nine minutes later, and Patrick Flottmann was at the end of the set-piece whose initial effort struck the crossbar and the ricochet was also which was blasted over the goal by the central defender.

Jamil’s men put on the afterburners in the dying moments of the match and would have scored had it not been for Majumder’s act of redemption. In the 89th minute, he made a fantastic double-save to prevent first Sahanek, and then Imran from getting their names on the scoresheet.

Chennaiyin has climbed to third place with this win and now will take on rivals Bengaluru in the Southern Derby on Wednesday while the last-placed NorthEast United will be up against reigning champions Mumbai City on Tuesday.