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ISL 5: Chennaiyin secure first win after amazing comeback against Pune

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PUNE: A stunning charge in the second-half saw Chennaiyin FC come from behind to claim a 4-2 win over FC Pune City at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune. The win was Chennaiyin’s first victory of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 and the three points saw them claw their way out of the bottom of the table.

The defending champions now have four points from seven matches and jumped up to the eighth spot. Pune, on the other hand, dropped down to the bottom place with two points from six matches.

Pune’s interim coach Pradyum Reddy sprung a surprise in his selection, dropping star forward Emiliano Alfaro from the starting XI and opting to put Marcelo Pereira up front as the lone striker. His opposite number John Gregory, too, made a couple of big changes to his side, drafting in out-of-favour striker Jeje Lalpekhlua and defender Mailson Alves into the starting line-up. Jeje and Alves started from the bench in Chennaiyin’s last few matches.

Both teams made a cautious start and chances were few and far between, with most of the action restricted to the midfield. However, the home team took the lead with what was the first real chance of the match on the 9th minute. Robin Singh picked up the ball on the right-hand side near the half-way line, looked up, and picked out Ashique’s run brilliantly with a long diagonal pass. The young attacker beat his man for pace and slotted in past Karanjit Singh from a tight angle. 1-0 to Pune.

Ashique’s pace down the left was Pune’s main outlet in the first-half and the youngster even drew a foul from the experienced Alves, which earned him a yellow card.

Chennaiyin’s best chance of the half came on the 42nd minute when Francisco Fernandes found space to shoot, but his vicious drive was dealt with by Kamaljit Singh.

Pune also got a chance late in the half when Marcelo’s free-kick found Matt Mills unmarked at the far post. The defender’s side-footed attempt was foiled by Karanjit. The hosts entered the break 1-0 up.

Chennaiyin began the second-half on the front foot while Pune sat back deep in order to protect the lead. The strategy backfired on the home team as the Marina Machans struck in quick succession to turn the match on its head. Alves evaded his marker to head in a pin-point free-kick by Anirudh Thapa on the 54th minute. Just two minutes later, Alves turned provider as he released Gregory Nelson down the right with a long ball. The Dutchman raced onto the pass and deftly lifted the ball over an onrushing Kamaljit for Chennaiyin’s second.

The visitors didn’t have to wait long for their third and it was again a set-piece which came to haunt the Pune defence. A deflected corner found its way to Inigo Calderon at the far post and the Spaniard complied with a magnificent overhead kick.

With Pune trying get back into the match, gaps opened up in the home team’s defence and substitute Thoi Singh took advantage on the 72nd minute. Jeje’s shot from Raphael Augusto’s low cross was blocked by the Pune goalkeeper but the rebound fell to Thoi, who made no mistakes. 4-1 to the away side. Raphael Augusto could have made it five soon after, but his thunderous strike came off the crossbar.

Jonathan Vila got his head to Marcelo’s corner to pull a goal back for Pune on the 90th minute, but it came a little too late. Things only got worse for the home side, as Marcelo was shown a direct red card for a dangerous challenge on Germanpreet in the dying minutes.

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