Super-sub Karikari makes difference for Chennaiyin as visitors down ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1

Rahim Ali scored the winner for the visitors

Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith’s indiscretion and poor defensive organisation during counter-attacks cost ATK Mohun Bagan dearly as Chennaiyin rallied from a goal down to beat hosts 2-1 in their opening 2022-23 Indian Super League encounter on Monday.

It was Ghanaian forward Kwame Karikari, who came in as a substitute in the second half and turned the match on its head, by first equalising in the 64th minute and then setting up India international Rahim Ali for the winner in the 83rd minute.

ATK Mohun Bagan started with Vishal Kaith in the goal-post and the trio of Pritam Kotal, Brendan Hamill, and Subasish Bose started in three-man defense while they were flanked by Asish Rai and Ashique Kuruniyan who played as wing-backs. The midfield was filled by defensive midfielders Deepak Tangri and Joni  Kauko with Hugo Boumous playing as the No. 10 behind the two strikers Manvir Singh and Dimitri Petratos.

Chennaiyin, on the other hand, had Debjit Majumder as their keeper whilst the duo of Vafa Hakhamaneshi and Fallou Diagne formed the heart of the central defense for the Marina Machans. The duo were joined in the flanks by Ajith Kumar and Narayan Das. Julius Duker and Anirudh Thapa played the game as deep-lying playmakers for the visitors while Prasanth K  and Jiteshwor Singh played in the wings. Petar Sliskovic and Rahim Ali were the two focal points for the team from Chennai.

Five minutes into the first half, Boumous whipped in a menacing cross from a corner towards Petratos. The Australian’s strike was saved comfortably by Majumder in goal. Four minutes later, Chennaiyin advanced with Sliskovic, who pulled the ball back for Thapa. Thapa’s long-range shot was blocked by Hamill.

A heart-in-mouth moment came for the Marina Machans’ defense in the 15th minute when Majumder wasn’t fully on top of this game with the clearance and was robbed of the ball by Manvir. The striker passed the ball to Kuruniyan before the winger’s shot was saved by a relieved Majumder.

However, it was the Kolkata-based side that started the match in a positive fashion as Manvir, who has fallen out of favour with national coach Igor Stimac, played a one-two with Dimitri Petratos before slotting it past Chennaiyin goalie Debjit Majumdar in the 27th minute gave the Mariners 1-0 lead.

The Mariners were cruising with the game in their control and toiling with Chennaiyin players until a super-sub changed the entire course of the game.

It was in the 68th minute that Chennaiyin’s fortunes changed with the introduction of Karikari on the pitch in place of Fallou Diagne. He was involved in both goals. In the first, he won the penalty after Vishal Kaith fouled him inside the box, which he calmly converted to get the Marina Machans back into the game. 

Then in the 83rd minute, it was Karikari’s cross which, while it was just behind Sliskovic, was perfect for the incoming Rahim Ali, who took it on the first instance and buried the ball in the corner past Kaith.

ATK Mohun Bagan had a chance during dying moments when substitute Liston Colaco tried to curl a free-kick into the top right corner but Majumder was quick to react and palmed the ball away to safety with a full-stretch save. 

Chennaiyin kept their composure in the final few minutes of the game to secure the win. With three points in the bag, the Marina Machans will return home to host Bengaluru on Friday. ATK Mohun Bagan will make a trip down south to face Kerala Blasters in their second match on Sunday.