Chennai hold Aizawl in I-League clash
Coimbatore, Feb. 3 (IANS): Chennai City FC rode on a late strike from Antony Beautin to hold defending champions Aizawl FC 1-1 in an I-League clash here on Saturday.
Beautin struck in the 73rd minute to help the hosts earn a much needed point.
Japanese import Yugo Kobayashi handed Aizwl an early lead when he produced an excellent finish from close range in the third minute.
Chennai thus rose a spot to second from bottom in the 10-team league ladder with 11 points from 13 matches.
Aizawl remain sixth with 16 points from 11 matches. The defending champions dominated proceedings right from the start and should have won the game.
The Chennai defenders struggled to contain the Aizawl forwards for the most part but were aided by some poor finishing and some aimless final passes by their opponents.
Chennai coach Soundararajan continued with under-fire French forward Jean-Micheal Joachim up front, with Soosairaj acting as the playmaker.
Charles Anandraj and Pandiyan Srinivasan lined up in the double pivot with Schumeiko and Dharmaraj being paired in the centre of defence.
Kobayashi and Andrei Ionescu combined up front for the defending champions. Aizawl coach Paulo Meneses made wholesale changes after their tough trip to Iran for the AFC Champions League encounter against Zob Ahan.
Aizawl came out of the blocks very quickly and took the lead in the third minute. Ionescu got past his marker on the right before getting into the box and squaring a good cross to pick out Kobayashi who tucked in a neat finish.
Chennai responded reasonably well with a lion’s share of possession for the next 15 minutes. Jesuraj’s teasing cross into the box from the right provided Edwin Vanspaul with a golden opportunity to head in an equaliser but he sent his header wide.
The hosts had a lucky escape when Ionescu’s curled effort from outside the box struck the crossbar and went out at the half-hour mark.
Edwin held on to the ball inside the box before picking out Charles’ clever run behind the defence but the midfielder lacked composure as he blasted the ball into the stands, summing up Chennai City’s first half. David Lalrinmuana’s free-kick into the box from the left met Yugo Kobayashi’s feet but the woodwork denied Aizawl yet again.
Failure to convert chances hurt Aizawl as Chennai City snatched an equaliser in the 73rd minute. Laldinliana’s failure to intercept a through-ball from Soosairaj allowed Antony to drive into the penalty box and slot the ball home.
Both teams failed to create clear-cut chances towards the end and had to settle for a point each.