ISL 2017: Chhetri Chops Chennai

Match Report Indian Super League

Chase, Fight, Conquer

Bloody hell. Stop the press. We actually had a football match. I’m not saying that in terms of the excitement because the ISL rarely has a goalless draw, I’m more on about the supporters. I’m not 100% sure what was coming from which set of supporters on all of it, but, we saw a smoke grenade and a tifo with a hooded fan with a knife strangling a bird of some sort, which was meant to look like the Bengaluru logo, so that was obviously Chennaiyin supporters, that was alongside a banner saying ‘Chase, Fight, Conquer’ and the other two bits was another mini tifo which said something to do with death and there was also a small surfer of a skull. I’m hoping for a pitch invasion at the end of the season, where there’s a mass riot on the pitch, how about that for your franchise? To be fair, it would get the ISL some much-needed media attention on a global scale, maybe it’s a good idea after all.

Anyway, enough of my fantasies for the ISL finale, let’s have a look back at the Chennaiyin vs Bengaluru game which was 2nd vs 1st and if the away side came away with all three points, it would mean that Albert Roca’s side would go ten points clear of fifth place with the chasing pack only having a maximum of six games remaining. Essentially, that would be their place all but sealed, bar a dramatic balls up in the final few weeks of the normal season. It took Bengaluru under two minutes to take the lead as they came flying out the blocks, the ball was whipped in from the right, Chhetri got the better of Calderon in the air and Boithang Haokip reacted first. He put the ball underneath Karanjit, who really should have done better, but Haokip had his first of the campaign in what was a rare start for the left-sided player.

The home side responded well as Gregory Nelson had two sturdy efforts from outside the area. The first one was after he drove forward with the ball and created it all himself, his shot went high and wide though, not by much, but high and wide all the same. Minutes later, from almost the same position, he got this one on target as he forced Gurpreet into making a smart save. Chennai were knocking on the door.

Honours Even At Half Time

Despite this, the next two big opportunities fell to Bengaluru, the first to Juanan as the ball bounced kindly to him in the six-yard box, although, he displayed all of the attacking attributes you’d expect from a centre-half as he blazed over. Not too long afterwards, Bengaluru were at it again, their finishing or lack of it, let them down again as the ball was flashed across the face of goal, not once but twice as all it would have taken on either occasion would have been someone to be in the right place at the right time.

Chances squandered by Bengaluru, chance taken by Chennaiyin. Jerry Lalrinzuala, not to be confused with Jamshedpur’s Jerry Mawihmingthanga, put in a fantastic first-time delivery from the left-hand side which was met by the head of Francis Fernandes who somehow won the header in spite of the fact that he’s only 5”5. There is a question surrounding whether or not Gurpreet could have come out and claimed the ball, but take nothing away from Francis, it was a delightful header which evened the game up.

That took us into half time finely poised with these stats, in particular, showing you how close it was in the opening period… Possession: 48%-52% | Shots: 4-3 | Accurate Passes: 156-169 | Aerials Won: 6-5. You couldn’t split the two sides and it was going to take a moment of magic or madness to make the difference, so the story goes, it was a bit of both…

Not much happened in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half apart from Bengaluru’s Johnson, Delgado and Haokip all getting a yellow card for their troubles. After that though, the fuse was lit and the game kicked into life. Bengaluru won a free-kick on the edge of the box and what followed was simply mesmerising; Delgado shaped up to shoot, but instead of doing that he dinked into the path of the illustrious Sunil Chhetri, whose shot went under Karanjit (he was making a habit of this) and just before it went in, Miku blasted it in from a yard out. Proper striker goal that, blast it when it was already going in, get the goal tally up.

At this point, there were twenty-seven minutes left to play. We still have to cover another goal, a red card and a penalty that I’m still debating with myself. Let’s get a move on. The red card was next up and it was stupid really. There’s no better way to describe than that, stupid. Miku wasn’t really going anywhere and Sereno hauled him down; you could argue he was the last man but the referee gave him his second yellow and Chennaiyin were to spend the last twenty minutes without their captain. Stupid Sereno.

Did Jeje Leave The Iron On?

For some reason, though, this sparked Chennaiyin into life and it was them that was looking the most likely to score the game’s third goal and Jeje had the perfect opportunity as Harmonjot Khabra brought down Dhanapal Ghanesh with a tackle that can be best explained as ‘meh’. There was nothing really in it and on first look, I thought Khabra won the ball, but after watching the replay it would seem that Ghanesh’s trailing leg hit the ball instead, either way, it was a harsh penalty for the referee to give. Jeje stepped up knowing that if he put the penalty away, he would draw level with Chhetri as the top Indian scorer this season. He must have remembered that he left the iron on as he stepped up to take the penalty as it lacked any real conviction and Gurpreet redeemed himself by parrying it away. Bengaluru reacted fastest to the rebound as it was put out of harm’s way for a corner. Danger over.

The game’s fourth goal came deep into stoppage time as Chhetri got a deserved goal after some great work by Udanta. I really like what Udanta does for Bengaluru and feel at times that he doesn’t get the credit he warrants, especially now Steve is doing the previews, but I’m going to give him some here. Chennaiyin’s defender thought he had sorted the issue as he played the ball back to Karanjit, but Udanta was on his toes as he got to the ball before Karanjit and he squared to Chhetri after taking a whack in the face for his troubles. Chhetri took a touch to set himself before finishing with aplomb and he gave Bengaluru three points, three goals and thirty points for the season. They’re certainly the team to beat.

You’ve Been Bangalored

Stats from the second half weren’t too different but the key one is Shots On Target: 1-6. Chennaiyin’s shot on target was from the penalty spot, so that tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two sides. Bengaluru’s supporters displayed a banner at the end of the game which said ‘You’ve been Bangalored’ and that summed up perfectly what happened and one would think that wouldn’t be the last we see of that banner.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?