Punjab FC ended a 10-match-long wait for their first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) win by defeating Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi by 1-0 tonight.

The ISL debutants had come touchingly close to crossing the finishing line numerous times in the past, but their moment of reckoning finally arrived on a chilly night in front of their home fans at the national capital. Staikos Vergetis has one man to thank for this feat, and that is his 26-year-old French attacking midfielder Madih Talal.

Talal was turbulent for the Marina Machans throughout the game, regularly breaking into their defence from different areas and taking shots at goalkeeper Debjit Majumder. However, Owen Coyle & Co. could have avoided this loss had Connor Shields converted a fairly straightforward opportunity presented to him via close range with a squared-up pass by Jordan Murray in the 14th minute. The Scottish striker, goalless in Chennaiyin FC’s last six games, missed the target, and Talal made the visitors pay for it with a display of his creative genius throughout thereafter in the game.

At first, he cut into the box from the right flank and got behind the Chennaiyin FC backline to shoot straight at Majumder. Talal then tried to head the rebound into the net but Sarthak Golui made a crucial goal-line clearance. 16 minutes later, Punjab FC defender Suresh Meitei pushed ahead near the Chennaiyin FC box, displaying quick feet to keep the ball under control before making a pass to Talal at the centre of the 18-yard box. The Frenchman lobbed it slightly and pulled off an overhead strike from a close distance, but the ball, unfortunately, deflected off the goalposts.

His efforts weren’t going to end up redundant though, as the Chennaiyin FC defence began keeping close tabs on the midfielder. That drew them away from other Punjab FC players, opening up yards of space for their frontline to make use of. Talal finally struck, and it was a move that oozed all class, in the 56th minute of the game.

He sprinted into the Chennaiyin FC box, again from the right flank, and pulled the plug on his shot with such fierce power that Majumder was beaten on the near post, bringing the entire stadium to its feet. Vergetis breathed a sigh of relief on the touchline, and his team, bolstered by the introduction of workhorses like Krishnananda Singh, and Brandon Vanlalremdika, amongst others covered each blade of the grass until the final whistle blew to hold tight to their lead.

Key Performer of the Match

Madih Talal (Punjab FC)

Talal produced an exemplary performance, completing 76% of his 42 passes, tackling twice, creating three goal-scoring chances, earning seven fouls, making seven crosses, and intercepting once in addition to scoring the all-important winner that bagged Punjab FC their first-ever victory in the ISL.

What’s next for both teams?

Punjab FC will next host Odisha FC on December 26, whereas Chennaiyin FC will play Mumbai City FC on December 28.

Brief Scores

Punjab FC 1 (Madih Talal 56’) – 0 Chennaiyin FC

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