East Bengal FC sneaked past Chennaiyin FC by 1-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to kick off the Matchweeek 17 proceedings of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Monday. A second-half strike by in-form attacker Nandhakumar Sekar ensured that the Red & Gold Brigade garnered their second win since the resumption of the league.

The Carles Cuadrat-coached side has been searching for a beacon of inspiration lately, after finding themselves languishing in the bottom half of the standings last month. However, the effort by Nandhakumar, who is playing his first season for the club, was special in many ways, helping the side jump to the eighth spot in the table and remain very much in contention to qualify for the playoffs.

There were desperate efforts to break the deadlock earlier in the proceedings, but it took the sublimely sharp Nandhakumar to seal off the task, especially since the Marina Machans continued their struggle to find breakthroughs past the opposition’s defence.

Victor Vazquez launched in a cross into the box, that swung past three Chennaiyin FC defenders, before taking a nick off Cleiton Silva to land in Nandhakumar’s path on the right side of the box. The attacker bent on the left, before slicing in a shot that took Chennaiyin FC defender Debjit Majumder by shock, opening the account of the home side and potentially spelling promising things for them in the ISL to become the highest Indian goal-scorer in the league at present (5). Coyle’s pep talk and substitutions bore no result, with Cuadrat’s defensive discipline doing one over the same to keep hold of the coveted three points.

Key Performer of the Match

Nandhakumar Sekar

To his credit, Nandhakumar completed 14 out of his 20 attempted passes, made a tackle, created a solitary goal-scoring chance, in addition to demonstrating terrific finishing technique to score the winner and grab the elusive victory for his side.

What’s next for both teams?

East Bengal FC will be back on the field on February 29 against Odisha FC, whereas Chennaiyin FC will next lock horns against the same opposition on March 3.

Brief Scores

East Bengal FC 1 (Nandhakumar Sekar 65’) - 0 Chennaiyin FC

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