Chennai, Tamil Nadu: Brown’s intent to start off on the front foot was evident from his team selection, which included as many as five attacking players. Iain Hume, Marcelo Pereira, Robin Singh, Diego Carlos and Ashique Kuruniyan were all part of the Englishman’s very first starting XI in the Hero ISL.
The attacking intent was evident from the get-go as the away team came close to taking the lead within 30 seconds of the kickoff. Hume found Robin’s run with a delightful long pass from the left. The forward had only Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh to beat, but his first touch was poor and the ball got stuck under his feet denying him a proper shot at goal.
The Stallions created another great chance six minutes later when Diego Carlos, deployed to operate in the right wing, showed some lovely footwork to beat a couple of defenders and fizzed the ball into the danger zone. Chennaiyin needed a last-ditch clearance by defender Laldinliana Renthlei to bail them out.
A goalkeeping error by Pune goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh almost paved the way for a Chennaiyin goal against the flow of the match. The custodian came out to palm the ball away from an onrushing CK Vineeth, but couldn’t get enough power behind the clearance. The ball fell to Halicharan Narzary inside the box and with Kamaljit on the ground, the midfielder had the goal at his mercy. The former Kerala Blasters man, however, rushed his shot and sent it over the crossbar.
The chance injected some urgency into the home team as they started clawing their way back into the match. With both teams trading chances, it was a matter of who blinks first. Raphael Augusto came close to scoring for the hosts while Marko Stankovic was inches wide from giving the visitors the lead.
On the 38th minute, Marcelo’s free-kick rattled the post after Karanjit flew in to get the slightest of touches to the stupendous effort. It was the closest either team came to scoring in the first-half as they went into the break deadlocked at 0-0.
The Chennaiyin goalkeeper was called into action soon after the restart as he tipped Stankovic’s free kick over the bar to preserve the scoreline. Minutes later, Chennaiyin broke the stalemate as CK Vineeth fired in his first goal for his new team. Anirudh Thapa’s long range shot took a deflection and fell kindly for an unmarked Vineeth inside the box. The former Kerala man made no mistakes and slotted the ball into the bottom corner past Kamaljit.
The lead, however, lasted just four minutes as the Stallions came galloping back. Stankovic did well to ride a challenge and cut the ball back for Marcelo on the edge of the box. The Brazilian’s shot ended up inside the Chennaiyin net making it 1-1. Marcelo, however, wasn’t done just yet. Literally seconds later, his well-placed shot crept past Karanjit and snuck into the far corner adding to the home crowd’s agony.
With the match having turned on its head in a matter of just five minutes, the Stallions tried to slow the game down in an attempt to keep hold of the ball and keep Chennaiyin’s onslaught at bay.
With the clock ticking down, Chennaiyin came close to grabbing the all-important equaliser late in the match. Gregory Nelson’s shot from outside the box took a wicked deflection leaving Kamaljit wrong-footed. With the Pune defence helplessly looking on, the ball came off the crossbar much to the Pune faithful’s relief. The Stallions held on to secure their third win on a trot.