FULL-TIME: Chennaiyin FC 1-2 FC Pune City
Chennaiyin FC: 55′ CK Vineeth
FC Pune City: 59′ Marcelinho (Assist: M. Stankovic); 60′ Marcelinho (Assist: A. Kuruniyan).
A second half brace by the Pune City talisman Marcelinho got the new manager Phil Brown off to a winning start while Chennaiyin sank further into oblivion.
This is Pune City’s third win on the trot after picking up wins against FC Goa and Kerala Blasters before the winter break. Phil Brown retained the system and the players that got them these results and set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation. Marcelinho slotted in behind the forwards Iain Hume and Robin Singh while Ashique Kuruniyan and Diego Carlos provided width in the midfield areas.
Both teams had chances early in the game with Robin Singh missing a great opportunity in the first minute after failing to control the ball in a 1v1 situation. Attempts by Chennai’s Gregory Nelson, Raphael Augusto and a Marcelinho free-kick were met by resistance from the goalkeepers. Halicharan Narzary had a chance to convert into an empty goal, but he shot spectacularly wide as the teams went into the half-time break goalless.
A period of six minutes in the second half which had a glut of goals decided the outcome of the match. Chennaiyin FC opened the scoring first with the new signing and the southernmost journeyman of the ISL, CK Vineeth helping himself to a goal after a long goal drought.
Anirudh Thapa who was the top creator (xG) tonight tried to curl the ball into the top corner. The effort deflected off a defender, but still managed to find Vineeth who scored with a first-time shot.
After taking the lead, Chennaiyin promptly gave it up minutes later in a blaze of self-destructive defending. Stankovic went by his man and was in space on the left flank. He passed the ball to Marcelinho was just inside the box. The Brazilian with no one marking him took a first time shot which went through Karanjit and the scores were level.
After the equaliser, the game restarted from the center circle and literally seconds later Chennaiyin botched it up again. An Ashique pass found Marcelinho who made an unmarked run into the box while Thapa and Germanpreet were ball-watching. With the Pune forwards occupying the center-backs, the attacking midfielder scored with a pass/shot into the far corner with Karanjit equally culpable for the goal.
Chennaiyin pushed forward in search of the equaliser, but the closest they came was when a Gregory Nelson shot picked up a wicked deflection and hit the post. Rapheal Augusto had a series of attempts on goal (Top Shooter xG) throughout the game, but could not make it count.
In the end, it was familiar failings for Chennaiyin FC. They look like they’ve settled far too cozily into the bottom of the table without any desire to fight back. Their only win in the league season came against Pune City in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. While Pune have clawed back into seventh position, Chennaiyin will look forlornly towards the AFC Asian Cup play-offs next month.
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