Chennaiyin FC kicked off their 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) campaign with a 2-1 win over ATK Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday (October 10).
The Mariners left marquee signing Florentin Pogba and star winger Liston Colaco on the bench but still started with a XI that boasted plenty of attacking quality. Visiting head coach Thomas Brdaric, meanwhile, chose a largely defensive line-up on hostile territory.
Juan Ferrando's side began the game on the front foot, with new arrival Dimitri Petratos forcing an early save from Marina Machans custodian Debjit Majumder. ATK Mohun Bagan continued to dominate possession and created a few more good opportunities down the left flank, with Chennaiyin struggling.
Having been forced to defend deep for much of the opening stanza, the visitors over-committed on one of their only first-half attacks in the 27th minute. This left them glaringly open and the Mariners worked swiftly on the counter-attack to force a 3-on-1 situation.
Hugo Boumous set Petratos free on the right with a delightful touch. The Australian slipped in Manvir Singh, who chipped the ball over Majumder and into the bottom corner to give his side a deserved 1-0 advantage.
Boumous then came close to scoring after a fantastic run forward, but only found the side netting with the defenders backing away from the ball.
Chennaiyin, meanwhile, failed to create anything of note in the first half, barring a couple of dangerous crosses and attempts from distance that flew well over the bar. Brdaric's side entered the tunnel needing more impetus, while the hosts seemed to be in total control.
Kwame Karikari leads Chennaiyin FC fightback as ATK Mohun Bagan flatter to deceive
The second half was scrappy to start with as both teams largely tested each other out in midfield.
Substitute Edwin Vanspaul had Chennaiyin's first shot on target with an effort from distance that was easily saved by Vishal Kaith. Before either team could really get themselves going, a power failure at the Salt Lake Stadium halted the game for around 15 minutes.
This seemingly played in Chennaiyin's favor as ATK Mohun Bagan lost all the momentum they generated over the opening 50 minutes of the contest. The Marina Machans displayed more control and better passing to hold possession as the Mariners resorted to playing on the counter.
Brdaric then chose to call upon new arrival Kwame Karikari midway through the second period in a call that proved decisive in the match's outcome.
Barely a few minutes after coming on, Karikari latched onto a superb clipped pass over the top from Julius Duker. Kaith came out and fouled the Chennaiyin forward while getting nothing on the ball to hand the visitors a lifeline.
Karikari stepped up and found the back of the net with a solid penalty to make it 1-1.
The disappointed crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium expected ATK Mohun Bagan to hit back with increased urgency. However, the home team failed to feed off on their support and could only force a couple of straightforward saves from Majumder.
They ultimately paid the price for it as Chennaiyin stung them on the counter. A clearance in the box saw the ball worked to Sydney, who released Karikari with a perfectly weighted pass. The striker cut it back for the onrushing Rahim Ali, who lashed the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Out of nowhere, the Marina Machans were 2-1 up.
The goal, combined with a littany of handballs and fouls around the box, forced ATK Mohun Bagan out of their slumber. They rediscovered some of their intricate passing and forced the visiting defense to work hard.
Liston Colaco forced a brilliant save off Majumder from a free-kick on the edge of the box towards the dying embers of the game. Substitute Aakash Sangwan was also forced into a superb block in front of goal, while Fardin Ali put a presentable header over the bar from a corner for the Mariners.
Chennaiyin ultimately saw out the game to pick up all three points in their first match of the new ISL season. They have now won their opening match in each of their last three campaigns.
ATK Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, slumped to a defeat despite dominating possession (56%) and creating better chances. They also recorded more shots (15 to eight) and shots on target (seven to three).