FULL-TIME: Chennaiyin FC 2-1 Bengaluru FC
Chennaiyin FC: 32′ Jeje Lalpekhlua (Assist: CK Vineeth); 43′ Gregory Nelson (Header, Assist: R. Laldinliana).
Bengaluru FC: 57′ Sunil Chhetri (Header, Assist: Xisco Hernandez)
Too much rotation is spoiling the crop for Bengaluru FC as they slumped to a defeat against Chennaiyin FC at the Marina Arena.
Bengaluru started the game without the winger Udanta Singh and played new signing Luisma in his stead on the right wing. They had a couple of early chances fall to them with a Xisco Hernandez shot finding the keeper and Miku shooting just wide off the post.
Tonight’s game looked like a lopsided contest on paper with league leaders Bengaluru taking on Chennaiyin who are at the bottom of the league. Chennaiyin had only won once in the league prior to this game and the reverse fixture earlier in the season had ended in defeat for the hosts.
However, against all odds, it was Chennaiyin who broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute and it was Jeje who popped up to score his first goal of the campaign. The Bengaluru midfielder Khabra lost the ball in midfield and Chennai’s Raphael Augusto pounced on it and drove the ball forward and into CK Vineeth. CK Vineeth found Nishu Kumar initially, but the Bengaluru fullback failed deal with the ball only for Jeje to latch on to it and score past the keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who could’ve done more.
Visibly shocked, Bengaluru FC conceded a second 10 minutes later after Rino Anto failed to deal with a cross into the box from the Chennai fullback Renthlei. Gregory Nelson popped up near the far post to pip Rino Anto to the header and score.
Chennaiyin went into the half-time break 2-0 up – and in anticipation of a fierce Bengaluru comeback in the second half similar to what they had pulled off against Kerala in their last game.
But Bengaluru’s comeback tonight fell short of expectations. They pulled a goal back after Sunil Chhetri scored with a diving header in the 57th minute from a cross by Xisco Hernandez.
However, that was about the extent of the comeback as the game ended in Chennai’s favour. As the running sum graph suggests, Bengaluru did try after going a goal down to force the game in their favour, but they lacked bite on the counter-attack. They missed Udanta Singh and even Kean Lewis who was subbed in for Luisma couldn’t provide the pace and penetration Udanta provides.
They did have quite a few attempts on goal (Top Shooter xG) though, but that didn’t amount to much. While Miku was still trying to find his shooting boots after a injury lay-off, Xisco Hernandez was trigger happy and Sunil Chhetri did not have enough supply to make further impact on the game.
Bengaluru still are on top of the table and pretty much don’t have to worry about the play-offs. However, constant changes in team selection which extended to personnel in defence today left them disjointed and unsure. There is a definite loss in both form and momentum and they have to pick themselves up before the play-offs to be in contention for the title.