Chennaiyin FC: The league’s centurions

The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is slowly inching towards its business end with fight for the top-four spot heating up with every passing game. While Bengaluru FC have confirmed their status as one of the best teams in the country having sealed their semifinal status, others are set for a fierce battle in the coming days.

One of the side’s who will be hoping to among the top four are the newly-crowned ‘centurions’ Chennaiyin FC. In their previous encounter against Delhi Dynamos FC, the John Gregory-coached team became the first-ever club to score a century of goals when Mailson Alves found the back of the net with a well-directed header.

Four years since its inception, attacking football has been the hallmark of this side. And that they have been able to bring the best out of themselves on a consistent basis is what makes them a special bunch.

Life in the Hero ISL started with a bang for Chenniyin when they topped the league standings in the inaugural season. Up against a robust Kerala Blasters FC in the semifinal, this side from Tamil Nadu was made to dig deep in the first leg of their last four tie before bowing out to an extra-time goal in the second.  

But this was not before they had already scored 27 goals for the season, six more than the next best on the goal-scoring charts, FC Goa. Much of this should be credited to their marquee signing that season, Elano Blumer. The former Manchester City player would score a total of eight goals for the season, enough for him to claim the golden boot award.

The second season saw this team perform in a different manner. After a stuttering start to the campaign that yielded only three wins in their first 10 fixtures, Chennaiyin put up a spirited show and managed to achieve the required points that got them into the semifinal once again. They would win their last four league games, scoring 12 goals in the process, to book a last four showdown against defending champions ATK. They would then beat the Kolkata outfit 4-2 on aggregate and script a phenomenal comeback in the final against FC Goa to lift the title. 

The season saw Chennaiyin score 32 goals and for the second season running, it was a Chenniyin player who ended up with the golden boot award. Stiven Mendoza was the stand out performer for the team in 2015, scoring 13 goals in his side’s triumphant run.

The club had a season to forget in 2016. As defending champions, they would score just 20 goals enroute a lowly seventh-place finish.

However, this season they are back as one of the title contenders. Coached by a shrewd tactician in Gregory, Chennaiyin have flourished on the back of an air-tight defence and fearless attack. They have already managed to score 21 goals, the last of which was the landmark 100.

Jeje Lalpekhlua has been the target man this time with the Mizo snipper striking seven times so far at a rate of a goal every other match. Jeje, who has donned the Chennaiyin jersey since its inception, has in fact scored a fifth of his team’s goals in the league. At 20 goals, the Indian international is also Chennaiyin’s highest goal scorer. And with more matches to come for the former champions, they are sure to score plenty more.

Also, in the running to reach the 100 goals is FC Goa, who currently have 99 goals to their name. They missed out on sharing the limelight with Chennaiyin FC last week to a 0-2 loss at the hand of league leaders Bengaluru FC. The Gaurs have been free-scoring unit this season, bagging 29 goals. With them soon to join the 100-goal club, Goa will also hope to lay a claim on the title that was snatched from right under their noses by the ‘centurions’ in 2015.

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