A 41st-minute spot-kick conversion from Jeje Lalpekhua gave John Gregory's Chennaiyin FC a hard-fought 1-0 over Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex on Thursday.
Steve Coppell did not make any changes to Jamshedpur FC’s winning combination which beat Bengaluru FC in their previous match. Mehtab Hossain, who had to leave the pitch early against Bengaluru due to an injury, was back in the playing XI.
Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, made as many as three changes to the starting XI which managed a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters. Dhanpal Ganesh was back from his suspension and he replaced Anirudh Thapa in the central midfield. Gregory Nelson and last match’s goal scorer Rene Mihelic replaced Jude Nworuh and Raphael Augusto.
The home side surprisingly adopted a positive approach from the very first minute of the match. In the second minute, Kervens Belfort tested Chennaiyin custodian Karanjit Singh from close range. The Haitian received a cross from Mehtab inside the penalty box and attempted a shot at goal as the visitors’ defence was caught napping.
The Men of Steel came close to scoring once again in the sixth minute but Jerry Mawihmingthanga failed to convert a cross from Souvik Chakraborty from a few yards out.
Chennaiyin received their first blow of the match in the eighth minute when midfielder Bikramjit Singh suffered an injury and had to leave the field. John Gregory had no other option but to introduce Germanpreet Singh in his stead.
Jamshedpur dominated proceedings for the entirety of the first half as they won the midfield battles comfortably to keep Chennaiyin under control.
Just five minutes before the interval, Mehtab Hossain conceded a silly penalty by handling the ball inside the penalty box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing towards the spot. Jeje Lalpekhlua stepped up and converted the spot kick to hand Chennaiyin the lead.
The drama unfolded at the stroke of half-time when Bikash Jairu went down inside the Chennaiyin penalty box after a clash with Henrique Sereno. The referee pointed to the penalty spot which left the Chennaiyin skipper fuming. Sereno vehemently protested the decision. It was indeed a soft touch on Jairu and was not really worthy of a penalty.
In the end, justice was served when Kervens Belfort saw his spot-kick saved by Karanjit Singh.
Chennaiyin looked calm and composed in the second half and concentrated mostly in dominating possession at the centre of the pitch to frustrate Jamshedpur.
The Jamshedpur manager, desperate for an equaliser, made his final two substitutions in the 68th minute. Izu Azuka replaced Kervens Belfort upfront and Sameehg Doutie replaced central defender Andre Bikey.
Memo moved to the backline to take Bikey’s position. The formation changed from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 with Doutie and Jairu on the flanks and Farukh and Azuka upfront.
The home team started attacking in numbers as the match slowly progressed to its last quarter. They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the last 10 minutes and kept the ball moving in and around the opponent’s penalty box but were unable to do any damage.
The defeat was only Jamshedpur’s second of the season so far. Unfortunately, both their losses have now come on home soil. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, strengthened their position at the summit with yet another win. They now have 16 points from eight outings.