The ATK Mohun Bagan defence had an answer to whatever Chennaiyin threw at them when the two teams met in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash on Thursday. The match was goalless for 90 minutes but then David Williams scored a late winner to hand Bagan a valuable win.
Although the game remained goalless for 90 minutes, if somebody could score a winner, it was Bagan. Chennaiyin, without the injured Anirudh Thapa and Rafael Crivellaro, struggled to bring any rhythm to their game in the midfield, and as a result, looked lost in the final third.
The Machans had one shot on target in the entire game. And when Enes Sipovic took advantage of an error from Arindam Bhattacharya to head the ball towards an empty net late in the second half, an alert Tiri rushed towards the goal line and cleared the danger, to effectively brush Chennaiyin out of the game. That was the closest Chennayin had come but Bagan again had an answer.
Antonio Habas opted to begin the game with four defenders - Subhasish Bose, Tiri, Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal - at the back. And Bagan managed to keep Chennaiyin out. After the break, he brought Sumit Rathi on in place of Bose to deal with the pace of Thoi Singh. And Bagan still managed to keep Chennaiyin in check.
Isma Goncalves looked clueless as to how to break the Bagan defence and there was no proper support available for the striker. If there is a Chennaiyin player who deserves a bit of credit, it is goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. If it wasn't for his stunning save to keep an excellent Javier Hernandez volley out in the first half, Bagan would have probably run away with the contest.
The next time Javier's delivery threatened, which was in added time, Bagan scored. Substitute David Williams escaped the attention of the Chennaiyin defence and headed home the match-winner.
With the win, Bagan reduced the gap to league leaders Mumbai City to just two points, though the Islanders have a game in hand. The top two spots seemed to be more or less decided but there is still an exciting race to finish top of the league to come between these two teams.
Habas' only concern would be the dip in form of Roy Krishna, who once again didn't look to be at his best. He has not scored in the last three games but still has six goals in 12 matches so far.
Csaba Laszlo, however, has quite a lot of pondering to do. Without Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis and the midfield brain of Crivellaro, the Machans look like the ghost of the team that raced to the ISL final last season under Owen Coyle.
It must be worth a shot for Laszlo to try and start Esma and Jakub Sylvestr together. Their habit of conceding in the second half is also a problem for Chennaiyin. 10 of the 13 goals they have conceded has been in the second half of games.