Chennaiyin FC marked a happy return to their home ground with a convincing 5-1 victory over Punjab FC here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in the Indian Super League (ISL) match on Sunday night.
Owen Coyle-coached teams have recorded 1.7 goals per game in 62 matches across his three tenures in the ISL. However, that facet was missing from the gameplay of Chennaiyin FC this season. They had scored twice in four games combined ahead of this fixture, but the Marina Machans put on a show for their home fans against the ISL debutants.
Chennaiyin built pressure consistently from kick-off, taking their attack to the Punjab defence from all angles. They earned a corner kick courtesy of that in the 24th minute. Rafael Crivellaro delivered an accurate cross to Ryan Edwards at the far end of the post, who brought the ball down and slotted it home to hand his side the lead.
Coyle’s team made the most of this window of opportunity by breaking into a counter attack. Crivellaro and Scottish striker Connor Shields led that move, with the former squaring off a pass for the striker inside the box. The forward found the back of the net in the 27th minute to record his first goal of the match.
Crivellaro had been assisting goals all this while, but he got a chance to get one on his name at the brink of the half-time whistle. Farukh Choudhary showed quick feet to cut into the box, but was brought down by Punjab defender Melroy Melwin Assisi. The Brazilian attacking midfielder stepped up on the spot and converted the penalty in added time of first half to triple his team’s lead.
Chennaiyin didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second half though. Melroy was sent off after a foul in the 48th minute. That one-man advantage benefitted Chennaiyin when Rahim Ali stormed into the box from the left flank. He drew defenders towards him and laid out an assist for Shields, who bagged his brace in the 56th minute.
Coyle’s team appeared eager to make the most of their impressive form, and hence kept seeking goal-scoring opportunities even as the game entered its final few minutes. Vincy Barretto found himself in an appropriate goal-scoring position in the 84th minute, and Jordan Murray’s eye for a pass helped the duo interlink and bag Chennaiyin’s fifth strike of the night.
Two minutes later, Krishnananda Singh unleashed a shot from outside of the box that beat Debjit Majumder to reduce Punjab’s goal deficit. However, that effort was arguably too little, too late for the visitors.
Chennaiyin FC will next host FC Goa on November 5, whereas Punjab FC will tour to take on Mumbai City FC on November 2.