Vladimir Koman spot-kick powers Chennaiyin to a win over Hyderabad

Vladimir Koman takes a penalty on his Chennaiyin debut

Chennaiyin displayed a combination of ‘grit and determination’ in abundance to start their Indian Super League 2021-22 campaign with a 1-0 win over Hyderabad as a Vladimir Koman spot-kick helped the two-time champions edge the scrappy contest.

Chennaiyin head coach Bozidar Bandovic fielded a strong XI in his debut match as the trio of Ariel Borysiuk, Koman, and Mirlan Murzaev started in the 5-man midfield with Rahim Ali spearheading the Marina Machans attack. Slavko Damjanovic marshaled the new-look defense with Salam Ranjan Singh and Narayan Das making their Chennaiyin debuts alongside the Serbian central defender.

The Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez fielded a familiar defense with Juanan making his debut for the Nizams. Bartholomew Ogbeche also made his debut alongside former ATK Mohun Bagan attacker Edu Garcia as Joao Victor captained the team.

Hyderabad was dealt with an early blow as an injury curbed Halicharan Narzary’s time on the pitch very early on in the game and had to be replaced by Nikhil Poojary.

New signings combined for the team in yellow as  Garcia found Ogbeche in space on multiple occasions but the usually clinical Nigerian forgot to wear his goal-scoring boots in this game. The former Mumbai City man missed a few half-chances early on with substitute Poojary firing the ball over the crossbar from 15 yards failing to give his team the elusive lead. 

Chennaiyin had a chance right at the end of the first half, but Kyrgyz winger Murzaev’s effort was just wide off-target.

The Marina Machans were much better in the second half as Lallianzuala Chhangte and Murzaev gave the Hyderabad backline a run for their money. Chhangte probably had the best chance on the night as he went on his bike beating Akash Mishra down the right flank and then pulled the trigger after swiftly cutting inside. It could have been to watch again and again for days on end but for Laxmikant Kattimani’s brilliant save.

However, what followed was a catastrophe for the Nizams as an attempt to chest down the ball by Hitesh Sharma gifted the ball away to new Chennaiyin skipper Anirudh Thapa. One mistake spurred another as in a bid to redeem himself, Sharma clumsily brought Thapa down inside the penalty box giving away a silly penalty to the Marina Machans and a glorious opportunity to seal the tight match.

New signing Koman stepped and struck the spot-kick with a lot of conviction to hand his team the crucial lead. It was a hard-fought goal for Chennaiyin, as they soaked in unreal pressure to keep the game at 0-0 for the majority of the match.

Anirudh Thapa earned the penalty for Chennaiyin

Anirudh Thapa earned the penalty for Chennaiyin

With the deadlock being broken, Marquez threw everything at Chennaiyin’s defense and brought in a lot of attacking players in Sahil Tavora, Rohit Danu, Javier Siverio, and Joel Chianese, all at once to force the issue.

Hyderabad did create a few chances as Mohammed Yasir’s fantastic run down the left and then a great cross in the middle almost created an opening for the Nizams but the Chennaiyin defenders were alert to the danger.

Bandovic made two late substitutions by bringing foreign striker Gikiewicz for Murzaev and also the big-money signing Ninthoi Meetei. These changes were primarily aimed at running down the clock but also gave precious match time to Gikiewicz and Meetei who are likely to play a big role for Bandovic’s team in the upcoming games.

Hyderabad only has themselves to blame for the defeat as the lack of efficiency in front of the goal could have easily given them a first-half lead. The solitary goal on the evening could have been avoided without any hassle as the Hungarian midfielder’s penalty kick made all the difference on the evening.

Chennaiyin will now face NorthEast United next on Sunday with Hyderabad locking horns against reigning champions Mumbai City on Saturday.