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Indian Super League

Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC lay bare frailties in pulsating draw

08:20 EAT 29/11/2019
Chennaiyin vs Odisha
Both teams could have injected some much-needed confidence into their campaigns with a win on Tursday but it was not to be....

After a see-saw battle at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on Thursday, both Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC had to settle for a point that did neither team much good. The 2-2 draw gave neither team the outcome they were after from this Indian Super League (ISL) encounter but also ensured they weren't completely disheartened.

Chennaiyin went into the game after clinching their first win of the season only three days back against Hyderabad FC in dramatic fashion. Another win here would've been the shot in the arm the Marina Machans desperately needed to find their mojo back.

Odisha FC, on the other hand, are at a curious stage. The team is playing some eye-pleasing football under Josep Gombau and dominated the likes of ATK and NorthEast United but failed to garner the required results. They lost 2-1 to NorthEast and drew 0-0 against ATK. That, again, would be the theme of the match for Gombau.

Odisha were head and shoulders above Chennaiyin in terms of technical ability, attacking patterns and intelligence of movement in the first half. The home team were under the cosh against a team that looked so comfortable on the ball.

Much of that had to do with the stability that Marcos Tebar offered in midfield, sitting alongside Vinit Rai and allowing Xisco Hernandez to roam free in the attacking third. Chennaiyin's midfield just could not cope with that movement and intensity and were lucky not to concede in the first half. Masih Saighani, the Afghan defensive midfielder, was almost static and was given a torrid time by Xisco.

He was so ineffective in defence and attack that Germanpreet Singh was sent on at half-time in his place. That change paid dividends for Chennaiyin with the former Minerva Punjab midifelder offering more in terms of aggression, energy and movement. It also helped John Gregory's side that Vinit Rai was taken off for the technically inferior Bikramjit Singh by Gombau which sort of swung the midifeld battle a little in Chennaiyin's favour in the second half.

Anirudh Thapa and Rafael Crivellaro started finding more time on the ball. Riding that wave of positivity, Chennaiyin found the goal they wanted through Nerijus Valskis. But that sparked a response from Odisha who just could not score earlier. It also laid bare Chennaiyin's inability to hold on to a lead for yet another game.

But they must be commended for keeping at it and finding another goal from a corner. But they could not hold on to that lead as well as Odisha equalised yet again. While credit for Odisha for mounting a fightback, the blame also falls on the Chennaiyin defence who did nothing to stop Nandhakumar from dribbling past three players in the lead up to the second goal.

The home side's skipper Lucian Goian, for all the commitment he shows on the field, should reign in his instincts and help his side keep their composure a bit. He often flies into tackles needlessly and is seen out of position at times.

"It’s a mental thing (conceding goals immediately after scoring). Once you score you have to switch on and get the ball back. We are a victim of our own circumstances. Sometimes we need to be more defensive and aware of the danger. It is a mental thing. I find that a lot in India. Not just here but many other clubs. We can only try to educate the lads in training. Few of our boys were really tired," said Gregory after the game.

However, Chennaiyin's biggest positives from this match will be how they scored two more goals while countering a technically-superior side. But their inability to hold on to a lead will concern the coach.

For Odisha FC, it is all about results. They are playing some brilliant football but just do not seem to have the mental edge to carve out results.

"We are not doing wrong. We play good football and we have experience," said Gombau. "But I am such a coach. I dont want to sit back and just grind out results. I don't want to wait for the mistake from opponent. We are not doing things wrong. We are playing young players. This is the way I am as a coach and I dont want to change this for anything."