Last week was a different one for myself, taking on an edition of our monthly review of each team. Luckily enough, I got handed the pleasure of tackling the Champions and their path to the second Super League trophy in their cabinet.
The first month of a season isn’t one where genuine contenders arise usually, and that was the case here. Only two games were played and on the back of those, John Gregory would have been content. A win and a defeat, but a positive goal difference.
As mentioned, November is a month in the league to gradually get going into your stride. If thats the case then, then December is the complete opposite. SIX games were around the corner, not to mention four of those being away games.
FC Pune (A) 0-1
With games coming thick and fast in the league, each month can be seen as a mini season. You know what they say, start positively and pick up points, thats exactly what Chennai did here.
They had never lost away at Pune in the league, and as the game went on it looked like that record could end. The hosts were quite dominant but could not make any chances count and paid the price.
Much of this was down to the away sides resolute defending throughout. With 10 minutes left to play, the skipper Henrique Sereno popped up with the eventual winner. A simple goal in the end after a ball to the front post by Jaime Gavilan left the captain with a simple header into the near corner.
Job done and another three points in the bag.
ATK (H) 3-2
An hour was played with nothing to report in this one, yawn. The last 25 minutes? A complete different story, a rollercoaster. The rock and roll end to the game started with Jeje getting his first of the season.
Lalpekhlua is given the credit but in actual terms it was a tap-in. The same combination that won the Pune game came through again. A Gavilan corner was headed of the post by Sereno and fell into the path of Jeje who swept up the pieces gratefully.
The second came after an equaliser by ATK’s Zequinha from Mr Reliable, Inigo Calderon. The Spaniard must of found a four-leaf clover or something along those line because it was a very lucky strike to give him his first goal in India. A goal bound strike hit Tom Thorpe and deflected into the net, much to Calderon’s delight.
After another equaliser in the 89th minute by Njazi Kuqi, the home sides good work looked to be undone, or was it? Tell Calderon and Jeje that! Calderon was released down the right and whipped in a wicked ball which was punched into the path of Jeje, who finished magnificently to send the Chennai fans wild and make the start to the season, a very good one!
Mumbai (A) 1-0
The grit shown to get three points in the previous game would of pleased Gregory but with this being the third match in seven days in the busy calendar, some changes were made. Two goal hero of the ATK victory Jeje was on the bench alongside Jaime Gavilan and Gregory Nelson.
With three wins on the bounce, Chennai were confident coming into this one with Mumbai only having collected one victory so far in the season.
This one in all honesty wasn’t one to write home about and it was the home side who had most of the running through the game. Mumbai were awarded on the hour when Mailson Alves brought down Blatant Singh and Achille Emana tucked away the resulting spot kick.
Chennai could not save this one late on like their last outing and Mumbai handed them their second defeat of the season.
Bengaluru (A) 1-2
Maybe a week off after a defeat was the best medicine for Chennai, next on the table was the first derby of many between these two and lets just say it lived up to the billing!
It started in scintillating fashion, Jeje back in the starting eleven and back in the goals after five minutes. The Indian added to his impressive start emphatically here, the ball deflected into his path and he smashed home a volley.
The game stayed like this all the way into the dying embers. We’ll transfer all the way to 85th minute with Chennai rolling towards yet another victory. Oh wait, not again I hear from the away end.
Bengaluru were knocking for most of the second half and finally the door was unlocked by that man Sunil Chhetri. 1-1 with five to play and it looked like another disappointing trip on the road. Well that was the case until the 89th minute!
A freekick whipped across the face of goal by Rene Mihelic was headed home by Dhanpal Ganesh to end the game and celebrate picking up another three points in the sweetest of fashions.
Kerala Blasters (H) 1-1
What is it with Chennai and their late showings? For this one we can jump forward all the way to the 89th minute and the penalty spot!
It was 0-0 all the way through, mainly due to Karanjit Singh’s heroics in net keeping his side in this one. Anyway, back to penalty, Rene Mihelic looked to have earned his side another valuable three points after slotting home from the spot.
That wasn’t to be the case as after all their hard work to score against the run of play they conceded minutes later. CK Vineeth tapped in to give the Blasters a deserved point on their travels.
John Gregory will not of been too disappointed with a point but more the manner in which they conceded minutes after conceding, a lecture everyone involved with football has heard before, right?
Jamshedpur FC (A) 0-1
A lot of this month for Chennaiyin was about the combinations between key players, the one’s that are repeatedly mentioned for their contributions and they have two familiar names to thank for this win.
It was a tale of two penalties that separated the sides in the end. First it was Chennai who got the chance from 12 yards after a handball on the floor. The first special mention is of course to Jeje, the Indian stepped up to cooly slot the ball home and continue his fabulous start to the campaign.
Two things seem to be common in games involving Gregory’s men, late drama and penalties! And there was another minutes later, this time in the wrong box as Jamshedpur won themselves one.
Maybe it was a bit of a soft one to the dismay of Sereno. The slightest of touches was enough for Bikash Jairu to hit the deck and the referee agreed with Jairu and awarded the penalty. Belfort stepped up for this one and remember the star men we keep mentioning? Up step Karanjit Singh once more to save the penalty and earn his side another three points!
Decmeber was the month for the real contenders to flex their muscles and Chennai certainly did that, beating strong rivals such as Pune and Bengaluru on the road. Themselves and Goa were looking like the main two to watch and form is key to uphold through the season and as the months go on.
January and 2018 is next for Chennai with games against four teams who seem to have struggled to start this campaign as well as they would of like. A real opportunity for Chennai to pick up more valuable points!