Efficient Chennaiyin make light work of opponents to top AFC Cup group
Two quickfire goals early in the second half guided Chennaiyin FC to a convincing 2-0 win over Nepalese outfit, Manang Marshyangdi Club in their second AFC Cup 2019 group E match at the Arena Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday evening. The result means that the Marina Machans now have four points from two matches and top the group on goal difference.
Head coach, John Gregory handed a first start of the season to Mohammed Rafi, who slotted right behind Jeje Lalpekhlua in an attack-minded setup. The first half would although, turn out to be fruitless as Chennaiyin lacked the ruthlessness to convert their fairly-regular chances. Anirudh Thapa, Jeje and Rafi all had a decent sight at goal, but none could muster up anything substantial in a goalless yet untested first half for the home side.
Five minutes into the second 45 and Chennaiyin were ahead. Midfielder Chris Herd broke through the opposition and fired a shot from the edge of the box. The effort took a deflection before ending in the back of the Manang net, thus handing Herd his first-ever goal in Chennaiyin colors. Two minutes later, the scoreline doubled in favor of Gregory’s men. Thapa’s dangerous corner was met with real purpose and force by captain, Mailson Alves, whose header proved to be too strong to handle.
The Marina Machans prodded along following those goals, managing the game expertly. Goalkeeper, Karanjit Singh who had been a spectator for most of the match, was finally called into action three minutes from full-time, but his reflexes bailed Chennaiyin out.
At the post-match press conference, a delighted Gregory expressed his relief at the closure of a grueling period for his team. He said, “We are delighted with the outcome and the clean sheet. It was a professional performance from us. We've come through a tough schedule. Chris Herd was great for us today, scoring one of the goals for us too.”
He added: “It is also important we got the win, as we have a two week break before our next game. It's always crucial. It's the worst feeling to go into a break on the back of a defeat. The team can rest and recover after what has been a really gruelling schedule. It puts us into a good space, going into our next game on 30th April against Abahani.”