Chennaiyin FC might have lost their first four games last season but they've hit the ground running this time around, beating Jamshedpur FC 2-1 in their first match of the Indian Super League (ISL) on Tuesday. The three points was their best result after their opening fixture since the first edition of the league in 2014. At the receiving end of course was Jamshedpur coach Owen Coyle, under whom Chennaiyin had recovered from their dismal start last year.
It took five games, but the ISL got its first goal off an Indian boot this season as Aniruddh Thapa scored off his first touch just 52 seconds into the game. That early advantage doubled when a penalty conceded after Lallianzuala Chhangte was shoved inside the Jamshedpur box was converted by new signing Esmael Goncalves in the 26th minute. There was an ex-Chennaiyin touch to the third goal of the match as well. Nerijus Valskis was the golden boot winner last season for Chennaiyin, but he headed in in the 36th minute to pull one back for Jamshedpur.
Much of Chennaiyin success last season was due to the combination of Thapa and Rafael Crivellaro - the pair had 14 assists between them. The addition of Esmael, playing on the right wing, has added another dimension to their threat. Crivellaro was as good as he was last season, setting up chances throughout his time on the field, and even initiating the first goal when he dispossessed Jitendra Singh in the half line. Thapa however had scored just one goal last time around and his adding to that number in the opening match this season would be particularly pleasing to coach Csaba Laszlo who, ahead of the tournament, had called for the 22-year-old to step up and "express himself" on the field.
Three points are as good a result as possible but the 2-1 was a much closer scoreline than how the match actually played out. Chennaiyin had 12 shots in the game, and nine of them on target compared to just three for Jamshedpur - one of which was courtesy a silly error by Chennaiyin keeper Vishal Kaith.
Two one-on-one chances against the Jamshedpur keeper Reventh were fluffed. Esmael missed a chance to make it 2-0 as early as the 10th minute, while Chhangte passed back to Rahim Ali instead of taking the shot himself, in what would surely have sealed the contest in the 87th minute. It's the sort of result that while entertaining from a fan's perspective, left coach Csaba Laszlo unsatisfied. The Hungarian who took over at Chennaiyin at the start of the season has set high standards for his side and while there's much to smile about, he'd be hoping to have a more polished performance next time around. "I am happy to win but I am also a little bit angry because we should close this game 3-0 or 4-0 in the first half," Laszlo said after the game.
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