ISL 2017-18: Chennaiyin FC's spirit to the fore as yet another comeback gives them a valuable point

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The Marina Machans looked down and out in the first half, only to script another comeback and notch a vital point...

After 88 minutes at the Marina Arena in Chennai on Sunday, it looked as if Steve Coppell's Jamshedpur FC would walk away with three important points that would have more or less put them on the doorstep of the play-offs. 

They had played intelligently in the first half, grabbed a goal, and had defended deep, often desperately, in the second half until the 89th minute when Mohammed Rafi popped up at the far post with a looping header.  It handed Chennaiyin FC a share of the spoils and gave a major boost to their play-off scenario. 

It was well deserved as well, for such was the intent and intensity they displayed in the second half - a marked difference from the abject first half showing. Incidentally, this is not the first time the Marina Machans have had such a turnaround. 

In the very first game of the season, FC Goa had outplayed them in the first half but John Gregory's team mounted a comeback and almost snatched a point. It happened against ATK as well in the home game where they had a far better second half and managed to get two late goals which helped them nick the tie. 

Even against Delhi Dynamos at home, after going behind initially, they responded well and managed to take the lead but a lapse in concentration towards the end gave Delhi a share of the spoils. 

It just underlines the belief the team has in themselves and the methods of the coach. On Sunday, their determination and focus came shining forth and helped them get a crucial point. The atmosphere created by the raucous fans also helped. 

In the first half, Jamshedpur executed their gameplan perfectly. Sumeet Passi, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Farukh Chaudhary and Trindade Goncalves were all pressing high, affording Chennaiyin no time or space to orchestrate attacks. So much so that Bikramjit Singh and Germanpreet Singh were made to look like amateurs by Memo and Wellington Priori in midfield. 

Jeje found no joy from Andre Bikey or Tiri while the decision to deploy Gavilan on the right wing and Francisco on the left flank as inverted wingers also backfired for Gregory. There was no width to their game and the Jamshedpur's organisation down the middle meant Chennaiyin had no joy going forward. 

Chennaiyin FC Jamshedpur FC

In fact, Jamshedpur should have scored more than a goal. Farukh missed a sitter of a header from point-blank range before Wellington Priori came up with a stunning volley, as has been his wont recently. 

Gregory switched his wingers immediately after going behind and it resulted in better attacking shape while going forward. They were also helped a lot by the fact that Jamshedpur went into their shell in the second half and just resorted to defending. There was none of the high-press from the first half and they did not try and keep the ball whenever they gained possession. 

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The tactic was just to boot the ball away and fall back to defend. So much so that it became an exercise in retrieving the ball and attacking again for the home side, something which was likened to a training ground routine by John Gregory after the match. 

Chennaiyin FC's fitness levels also have to be credited for attacking with such intensity in the second half despite playing their fourth game in 12 days. Even then, the goal came from a poor piece of judgement by Subrata Paul. The goalkeeper came haring out to claim Rene Mihelic's corner and ended up in no man's land, allowing Rafi to apply the finishing touches by sending a looping header into the goal. 

Now, Chennaiyin go into their away game against Kerala Blasters with a four-point cushion over the Men in Yellow who are in the fifth spot while Jamshedpur have been pushed to a position where they have to get at least one win from two tough matches against Bengaluru and Goa.

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