Debjit Majumder was brought into the starting eleven after being benched following his erroneous performance against FC Pune City. For much of the first half in Chennai, the former Mohun Bagan custodian wasn’t tested as the game was boring given that the two teams preferred to remain cautious.
The home side took the lead thanks to some shoddy defensive work by ATK after the hour mark. Jeje Lalpekhlua was left unmarked inside the box from a set-piece while Debjit Majumder went for the ball and failed to get a touch on it. There was literally no defensive organisation which was understandable following the forced substitution of skipper Jordi Figueras.
Robbie Keane’s introduction added some much needed bite to ATK’s attack as his movement troubled the opposition defenders. Zequinha scored the first goal from open play for the Kolkata outfit after he was played onside by Inigo Calderon. However, Karanjit Singh should have done better in between the sticks as he could have saved or at least got a touch on it.
One of the reasons why ATK’s attacks looked threatening was also due to the absence of Bikramjit Singh who was withdrawn around the hour mark as John Gregory made an attacking substitution with the introduction of Anirudh Thapa. While the India international is someone who brings an attacking verve to the side, he is known to make poor tackles and challenges and thus, Chennaiyin’s defensive shape was no more resolute.
Chennaiyin’s second goal was thanks to a deflection but questions will be asked as to why as many as four players, namely Nelson, Rene Mihelic, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Inigo, were allowed to get a touch on the ball on the edge of the ATK box? Why weren’t they tackled by Rupert Nongrum and Connor Thomas?
There was another twist in the tale left for ATK as they managed to score the equaliser through Kuqi after a brilliant through-ball by Keane. The former Tottenham striker’s performance will certainly be one of the few positives Teddy Sheringham would take from the game.
The very next minute ATK once again allowed the Super Machans to bounce back and take the lead. Inigo was allowed all the time and space in the world to pick a cross from the right after Keegan Pereira was left for dead earlier in the move. The Spaniard’s cross was palmed away by a diving Debjit, once again at fault, as the ball fell kindly at the feet of Jeje to do the needful.
The point is why was Jeje left unmarked, why was Inigo allowed so much space and why did Debjit have to palm it away instead of collecting or the defender clearing it?
Sheringham deployed Ashutosh Mehta in a centre-back role. Mind you, the Mumbai-born player is a full-back or midfielder at best. This was probably the first time he played as a centre-back and against a top striker like Jeje. We must also take into account that he was returning from an injury as well.
It wasn’t that the English manager had a choice. He didn’t have any defender except Mehta on the bench as the rest – Anwar Ali and Nallapn Mohanraj are nursing injuries while Augustin Fernandes was left out after being on the bench against Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC.
It was silly errors at the back which cost them the tie against Pune City and the same holds true in Chennai. The problems keep piling up for the Sourav Ganguly co-owned outfit with Eugeneson Lyngdoh too likely to be ruled out for the season.
It will take something special for the club to come out of the current dire situation they find themselves in.