Chennaiyin FC do double on ISL champions ATK, move to top of the table
Jeje Lalpekhlua nets winner in clash of former Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK and Chennaiyin FC, moves to joint-highest among Indians on goalscorers’ list with seven goals.
After FC Pune City, Chennaiyin FC did the double on defending champions ATK with Thursday’s 2-1 win taking them to the top of the standings in ISL4 with 23 points from 12 games. (Highlights)
This was the first time ATK lost a game this season after taking having taken the lead. After their second successive loss and fifth overall, ATK stay in eighth place with 12 points from 11 games.
Martin Paterson had headed the hosts ahead in the 44th minute but Mailson Alves equalised in the 51st and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the winner in the 64th to become the joint-highest scorer among Indians with Sunil Chhetri in this edition. Both have seven goals.
If John Gregory went in at half-time looking like he had chewed a lemon, you couldn’t blame him. Against a team that looked like a pale shadow of the defending champions they were, Gregory’s Chennaiyin FC had more possession, played more successful passes and had more shots on target.
But it was the hosts who were in front, by a goal scored by a player who was once with a club for whom Ian Botham made 11 appearances.
Till Paterson walked the ball in after heading Jayesh Rane’s delivery into Chennaiyin FC goalie Karnajit Singh, ATK had parked more buses in front of their goal than it would take to fill up the Salt Lake stadium.
The visiting team though needed better delivery service in the front third to test ATK’s defence. And when Anirudh Thapa did breach the inner defence, he shot too close to ATK keeper Debjit Majumder.
Barring the goal, ATK’s most significant impact in the first half was cynical challenges by their central midfielders in areas from where Chennaiyin FC would have needed a miracle to score.
Ryan Taylor had clattered into Raphael Agusto and was booked as was Shankar Sampingiraj for barging into Thapa. Not long ago, Thapa was one of the five Indians sent for a training stint at FC Metz.
Chennaiyin FC moved in first to get him last season and the former India under-19 midfielder has shown enough promise for Gregory to give him nine games.
Looking chuffed at ATK having forged ahead in his first match in charge, interim coach Ashley Westwood soon had hands on hips as a Majumder clanger took Chennaiyin FC in front.
A sequence of passes on the right ended with right-back Inigo Calderon playing in front of goal. The ball was low but it should still have been a routine collection for the goalkeeper ATK has invested in a long-term deal, one lucrative enough for him to have left Mohun Bagan.
He delayed and that was all Lalpekhlua needed to score his seventh goal.
Before that, Paterson, who has played in the Premier League with Burnley and in Major League Soccer, was guilty of ball watching while defending a corner-kick and that led to Alves getting a free header to a Thapa assist.
And Paterson wasn’t alone in not attacking the ball. It sort of summed up the kind of brain fade that seems second-nature to ATK this term.