Coimbatore, February 23, 2020: Defending champions Chennai City FC played out a 1-1 draw to share the spoils with Aizawl FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Sunday.
Hero I-League veteran Katsumi Yusa broke the deadlock in the business end of the first half before Rochharzela brought the visitors back to level terms with a well converted penalty in the second half.
Both coaches reflected three changes apiece. Chennai gaffer Akbar Nawas reinstated Pravitto Raju and Jishnu Balakrishnan to his midfield along with Varun Mathur who made way for Rohit Mirza.
Aizawl boss Stanley Rozario recalled Juuko Richard Kassaga to his backline and opted for a different line of control upfront, naming Jonathan Lalrawngbala and Justice Morgan in his starting eleven.
The first goal-bound opportunity fell the way of the hosts in the ninth minute. Rohit Mirza made a good run down the right and after he was closed down, Mirza squared the ball across just in time and found Vijay, who went for goal but was denied by a fantastic save from Aizawl keeper Zothanmawia.
Aizawl made good use of the ball and lurked forward with intent, keeping the Chennai backline on their toes. Alfred Jaryan’s cross-field delivery found the overlapping run of Joe Zoherliana who played it across goal with three red shirts lurking but Roberto Eslava’s timely intervention averted danger on the occasion.
Coach Nawas made an early first-half substitution, bringing on Syed Suhail Pasha for Rohit Mirza in the 38th minute, and only two minutes after his introduction, Chennai bore fruits of their persistence.
An inviting delivery from Fito found Pasha, who headed across goal to the path of Katsumi and the Japanese playmaker soared the highest to head it past Zothanmawia in goal and give Chennai the lead going into half-time.
Matt Veron brought out an excellent save from Nauzet Garcia Santana on the other end, who dived full-stretch to his right to keep out the Argentine’s venomous strike from outside the box in the dying seconds of stoppage time.
Aizawl didn’t take long to find their equaliser in the second half and they had Eslava’s reckless challenge on Justice Morgan to thank for, which earned them a penalty in the 54th minute. Rochharzela made no mistake from 12 yards and registered his fourth Hero I-League goal this season.
Four minutes later, Chennai were denied by the woodwork after Katsumi had latched onto yet another delightful delivery from Fito but his effort this time, to his agony, ricocheted off the near post.
Aizawl skipper Jaryan had a crack from distance in the 79th minute. His effort took a wicked deflection off a Chennai shirt but Santana did extremely well to adjust himself and palm the strike away.
With just a minute to go, substitute and FC Basel loanee Jan Muzangu found Katsumi, who had made a timely run and with only the keeper to beat, did so but just as he was about to set off on his celebratory lap, dropped to his knees and pleaded to the heavens above in frustration as the ball touched his hand before.
The match ended in a thoroughly entertaining draw, and with the point, Chennai City have now moved up a place up to sixth, while Aizawl remain in the relegation zone with 15 points. Katsumi Yusa was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match.
Chennai City will now fly to Mumbai to challenge Indian Arrows at the Cooperage Stadium on February 28, 2020 while Aizawl FC will travel to Srinagar to face the Snow Leopards one day later (February 29, 2020).