ISL 2020: Thapa shines as Chennaiyin start with win after 2014
It is one thing to know how dangerous Anirudh Thapa and Rafael Crivellaro can be --- and Owen Coyle would because both were important to his steering Chennaiyin FC (CFC) from last to runners-up last term --- but it is quite another to stop them.
Tuesday’s ISL7 game at Tilak Maidan between CFC and Jamshedpur FC (JFC) was 52 seconds old when Thapa timed his down-the-middle run to meet Isma’s delivery from the right and blast home making him the first Indian scorer this term.
Isma, of course, had been found by Crivellaro who, despite dodgy digital connection had told Sunday’s media conference that he may have been named captain but his aim remain the same: make assists, score and take the team to the top four.
Isma’s penalty in the 26th minute, after Issac Vanmalsawma pushed CFC’s Lallianzuala Chhangte, sending TP Rehenesh the wrong way made it 2-0 in the 26th minute. Nerijus Valskis, who has made the same switch as Coyle, gave JFC a lifeline with a smart header in the 37th minute from Jackichand Singh’s cross. But 2-1 is how the scoreline stayed in CFC’s favour though the end to this exciting and open game could have been different had JFC central defenders Peter Hartley and Stephen Eze directed headers better.
CFC hadn’t won their first game since 2014 when ISL began so this would feel special for the two-time champions now helmed by Hungarian-Romanian Czaba Lazslo. A short pre-season meant he didn’t want to change too much of how CFC played under Coyle, Lazslo had said. So it fit that CFC would start with Indians in central midfield though Thapa’s partner on the night was Deepak Tangri and not Germanpreet Singh or Edwin Vanspaul who were on the bench.
With Tangri protecting the back four, Thapa stamped his influence on the game connecting the back and front thirds and making smart runs. Hartley’s injury didn’t help JFC though had his replacement Narender Gahlot not made two crucial interceptions, the game would have been over as a contest by half-time. It could have been that too deep in the second half had Jakub Sylvestr not ballooned over from close and the speedy Chhangte made the right decision once and produced a better finish at another time.
“If I am being honest, I am a little bit angry because we could not close the game in the first half but that is football,” said Laszlo.
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