Chhangte shines as Chennaiyin beat Kerala in drama-filled southern derby

Chennaiyin FC leapfrogged Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 standings after a 3-1 victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Friday. Andre Schembri gave the home side the lead early in the match, but Kerala responded with a stunning strike from their skipper Bartholomew Ogbeche. Two goals in the space of 10 minutes by Lallianzuala Chhangte and Nerijus Valskis before halftime though were enough for Chennaiyin to secure maximum points. Eli Sabia picked up a second yellow deep into injury time and was sent off.

The hosts started the match on the front foot and took the lead just four minutes into the contest. Rafael Crivellaro became provider by making a penetrating run to the byline before squaring for Schembri to slot home a simple tap in.

The visitors weren’t behind for long and drew level 11 minutes later courtesy a smartly worked freekick that saw Mario Arques lay off the ball into space for Ogbeche to unleash a rasping drive from range, which gave the goalkeeper no chance of a save and made it 1-1.

Ogbeche tried to give his team the lead three minutes later but dragged his effort wide of the target after getting into a good position. The Marina Machans then responded in style with some wonderful build-up play leading to their second strike of the night on the half-hour mark, after one of their goals were disallowed in the 25th-minute.

This time their top goal-scorer of the season, Valskis turned provider by setting up Chhangte with a brilliant lay off. The Indian youngster kept his composure and finished with aplomb to put Chennaiyin ahead.

Chhangte played an instrumental role in Chennaiyin’s third goal as well after finding himself in a one-on-one situation once again with Kerala custodian TP Rehenesh, who raced off his line to thwart the danger. Chhangte managed to get to a 50-50 ball before Rehenesh and dinked it over the shot-stopper towards goal.

However, instead of the ball going into the net directly, it struck the post and ricocheted straight to Valskis, who made it 3-1 for Chennaiyin. Chhangte could have also scored his second of the match on the brink of halftime when a quick freekick put him in on goal. This time though the Indian winger’s shot went wide of the target in what was the last bit of action in the first half.

Both teams had opportunities to score at the start of the second period but neither side capitalized on their chances. The hosts then looked to manage the game for most of the second half with Kerala enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

Kerala brought on Sahal Abdul Samad as they continued to chase the game and he almost made the difference in the 74th minute when his shot from a corner that fell to him on the edge of the box went wide. Messi Bouli also saw a shot of his go narrowly wide of the mark nine minutes later with Kerala doing their best to claw their way back into the game.

That said, Chennaiyin kept their discipline for most of the closing stages despite Sabia being sent off for a second yellow in injury time. Their man disadvantage didn’t affect them much, however, as they closed the match out relatively comfortably to give their new head coach Owen Coyle his first win.   

Hero of the Match – Lallianzuala Chhangte

The Indian international produced perhaps his best performance in the Hero ISL yet against Kerala on Friday. The young winger wreaked havoc on the opposition backline all night and finished the match bagging a goal as well as an assist.

AWARDS

Club Award – Chennaiyin FC

Maruti Suzuki Limitless Player of the Match – Nerijus Valskis

DHL Winning Pass of the Match – Rafael Crivellaro

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Lallianzuala Chhangte

Hero of the Match – Lallianzuala Chhangte

Watch the match highlights here:

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