An evening that started in the best possible way ended in agonizing defeat for defending Indian Super League (ISL) champions Chennaiyin FC as they fell to their third straight defeat, going down 3-4 at home to a spirited NorthEast United side.
The result leaves the 2-time champions still winless in this year's tournament after three games and with zero points.
Chennaiyin started really well, going two goals up inside 15 minutes as an own goal from Rowllin Borges from a corner and a superb team goal finished off by Thoi Singh saw them own the opening exchanges and look on course for their first win of the season.
But Bartholomew Ogbeche got one back for the Highlanders in the 29th minute after the Chennaiyin defence failed to clear their lines properly. Then came a 10-minute spell where three goals were scored. Thoi Singh scored again to restore Chennaiyin’s two-goal cushion, but Ogbeche completed a hat-trick as he scored twice more to level the scores at 3-3 in the 39th minute.
Borges then scored the winner in the second period for the Highlanders which Chennaiyin could not recover from.
Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory looked downcast after the game.
“Football has a habit of kicking you in the teeth sometimes and today was that day,” exclaimed Gregory. “To score three goals and not win is soul-destroying. It was a game we should have won.”
He mentioned that he was very pleased with the start: “Without question we started very well. Played very good football, had a lot of energy; it was one-way traffic in the opening quarter. Everything was going smooth and I felt we were good value for 2-0.”
“Then we gifted one goal. We made it 3-1 and then we gifted them two more goals,” added Gregory about how his side let the opposition back in the game.
He praised the efforts of his players once again, but conceded the defence’s showing had let them down once again this season.
“Our defensive performance have been our strong point for a good portion of the last 12 months. Teams had to do something special to get a goal against us. So what’s happening this season is not something we expect from our defensive players. NorthEast were gifted four goals today,” Gregory said. “That’s on me now, to improve those defensive shortcomings as we’ve been found lacking.”
He singled out his team’s second goal, scored by Thoi Singh, his first ever ISL goal, for praise. Jerry Lalrinzuala’s overhead set Isaac Vanmalsawma free down the left. Spotting the opportunity, Thoi set off on a sprint anticipating the cutback from Isaac which arrived in timely fashion.
“Our second goal was the pick of the match. It was a training ground goal.”
Chennaiyin have two away games coming up, against Delhi Dynamos and ATK. Gregory said that the team would have to pick itself up before that grueling challenge.
“Currently, I’m lower than a snake’s belly. That’s how the rest of the team obviously feels as well. They’re all gutted. It’s my job now to lift them up, dust them off, smarten them up and get them ready for the next two games.”
He pointed to the number of away wins in this season’s ISL as a trend to home teams not picking up as many points as expected, hoping that it would be something they could use as motivation as well. He finished by saying he felt if the defensive mistakes were fixed his side would be back in the reckoning.
“We’ve been very poor in the defensive end. That’s given the game away twice now for us. But if we rectify that, I don’t think we’re very far away from competing with the rest of the teams.”Published 19 Oct 2018, 00:26 IST