NorthEast United claimed another famous away victory as they beat Chennaiyin FC 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday night. Elano had initially given Chennaiyin the lead, but Diomansy Kamara and Silas scored to give the Highlanders all three points.
Chennaiyin manager Marco Materazzi made four changes from the side that lost 2-0 to FC Goa in their last game. Edel Bete, Mailson Alves, Zakeer Mundampara and Balwant Singh came in for Karanjit Singh, Alessandro Potenza, Fikru Teferra and the suspended Harmanjot Khabra. For the Highlanders, Cesar Farias made three changes as Aiborlang Khongjee, Silas and Nico Velez made way for Seityasen Singh, Francis Dadzie and Diomansy Kamara.
First Half: Elano and Kamara score in rain-interrupted half
It was Chennaiyin who got off to a brisk start. Straight from kickoff, the ball found its way to Thoi Singh, whose flick set Stiven Mendoza away, but the Colombian was not able to make the opportunity bear fruit. Chennaiyin dominated the early exchanges, keeping the ball well, and patiently trying to break NorthEast down.
After a lot of sparring, a chance came in the 15th minute as Mendoza found Elano in space. The Brazilian's stinging low shot was palmed away for a corner by NorthEast custodian TP Rehenesh. The resulting corner from Elano was headed over by Balwant. The match begin to get scrappy as the heavens up in Chennai. Tackles were flying in, as a result of which Carlos Lopez and Mundampara earned yellow cards from the referee.
But after 25 minutes, play was suspended due to lightning with incessant rain from the thunderstorm not slowing down one bit. Play eventually began after a break of 55 minutes, as the rains relented.
Soon after the resumption, a fantastic pass from Raphael Augusto found Elano in space inside the NorthEast penalty area, but the no.7's pass flashed across goal with no one able to make the telling touch.
Chennaiyin resumed from where they left off and continued to dominate the play. Inevitably, the goal arrived in the 33rd minute when an optimistic ball from Mehrajuddin Wadoo from halfway, intended for Mendoza, was headed out by Lopez, but straight into the path of Elano. And the Chennaiyin's marquee player made absolutely no mistake from the edge of the box, with a finish that left Rehenesh standing.
A couple of minutes later, Elano had a chance to double Chennaiyin's lead. He carried the ball a fair distance, and took a shot which went straight into Rehenesh's palms, when releasing Mendoza through on goal might have been the better option. Soon after, NorthEast had their first real attempt at goal, as Seityasen Singh tried his luck from a good 40-yards out, with a shot that hit the roof of the net.
Augusto then went on a joyride from inside his own area to the edge of NorthEast box, but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Siam Hanghal made an important intervention. NorthEast then enjoyed their best spell of the game as they managed to put constant pressure on Chennaiyin for a sustained spell of time. That spell brought them the equalizer.
Diomansy Kamara restored parity for the Highlanders with his first meaningful contribution of the game. His initial header off Seityasen's cross was saved by Edel, but the rebound fell kindly for the Frenchman to tap the ball into an empty net. Chennaiyin immediately had a chance to restore their lead as a clearance from a corner fell to Thoi outside the area, but the Manipuri's shot was just wide of Rehenesh's post.
Mendoza then left Lopez for dead with his party tricks to start off a move that he himself nearly finished, but he was denied by a superb save from Rehenesh. From the resulting corner, Elano went directly for goal, but his shot hit the side netting.
That was the last act of a first half that Chennaiyin dominated, and a half that NorthEast were extremely lucky to be going in level at the end of.
Half-time: Chennaiyin 1-1 NorthEast United
Second Half: Silas scores for NorthEast to claim another away win
The second half began with heavy showers. Once it began, it was more of the same as Chennaiyin dominated the ball and seemed to camp in the NorthEast half. Elano nearly threaded through a pass for Thoi, but Raju Yumnam made a vital intervention.
A couple of minutes later, good interplay between Mendoza and Balwant saw the Colombian free down the left flank, but when he flashed the ball across goal, there was not a single Chennaiyin player in the box. Against the run of play, NorthEast had a golden chance to take the lead. Once again, Chennaiyin were caught out by Seityasen's cross from the right side, but Francis Dadzie could not direct a free header towards the goal.
Normal service then resumed as Thoi set Mendoza away, before Balwant found himself in space on the left wing, but his low cross was handled by Andre Bikey. NorthEast played like they were content with the draw. Chennaiyin kept the pressure, and Mendoza soon had the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out as the Colombian was caught offside. Balwant had another chance soon after, but his shot off Elano's pass only found the side netting.
Mendoza then won a free kick on the edge of the area, drawing a challenge off Raju. Elano went for goal from a near impossible angle, but Rehenesh was alert to get down at his near post. By now, Chennaiyin would have been wondering what they had to do to get that elusive goal, as nothing seemed to be working.
Augusto was next to threaten as he created some space with a clever piece of skill and thundered a left footed shot at goal, but Rehenesh was upto the task, as he kept the Highlanders level.
NorthEast brought Silas on for Simao and the substitution worked like a dream, as barely a minute after coming on, Silas was found by Kamara, and he cut in past Mailson, before slamming the ball past Edel. The Highlanders would have considered themselves extremely lucky to be ahead, but now, they had a lead to hold on to. A lead that would put them well back in contention for a playoff place.
It was getting to a desperate stage for Materazzi, and he responded by throwing on Bruno Pelissari. But it was surprising that Elano was the man taken off. Seityasen had another ambitious attempt saved by Edel, as Chennaiyin began to push forward in search of the equalizer.
Farias then furthered his defensive numbers as Cedric Hengbart replaced Kamara. That seemed the logical move, given the NorthEast had taken the lead much against the run of play. Materazzi decided to throw the kitchen sink at it, as Fikru Teferra was brought on to replace Mailson Alves. A centre back replaced by a striker, it was a move that would leave Chennaiyin open at the back, but it was a risk that Materazzi had to take.
Mendoza had a glorious opportunity to put Chennaiyin level, after he was played in by Fikru, but he dragged his left footed shot wide. Velez then had the opportunity to put the game to bed, as he ran free of the Chennaiyin defense, but Mendy marshalled him well to ensure that he could only get away a weak shot straight into Edel's hands.
In the end, Chennaiyin had many more opportunities and much more of the play than NorthEast, but the difference proved to be Chennaiyin's profligacy and NorthEast's ruthlessness in front of goal.