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Three Things We Learned: Chennai City 2-1 East Bengal

Raghunandhanan Narasimhan discusses three talking points after Chennai City’s 2-1 win against East Bengal in the I-League.

It really is a wonder how one win can change the entire mood in the club and the perspective on it. Even more so if the win happens to be against a bigger opponent and the victory is made all the more sweeter if it is a come from behind victory. Chennai City FC can vouch for this as they completed a remarkable comeback victory over the Bengal giants in the 14th round of the Hero I-League. It looked to be smooth sailing for the title challengers as they took the lead through Wills Plaza in the 42nd minute but Nandhakumar equalised in the 57th minute before substitute Prasanth Karuthadathkuni managed to do the impossible as he got an injury time winner for the home side.

East Bengal have let slip their grip on the title challenge

East Bengal looked to be cruising in the earlier stages of the league campaign towards a long awaited I-League triumph. This defeat means they relinquish their top spot to Aizawl FC and no longer does the fate of the title lie in their hands. It is Aizawl’s to lose from now on and the mood was reflected in the East Bengal faithful as this has become all the more familiar to them. Head Coach Trevor Morgan has copped criticism for the loss but it’s a bit too soon for any conclusions to be drawn as East Bengal should look to get maximum points from their remaining games.

East Bengal have been the dominant force in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) in this decade as they have managed seven consecutive wins of the local league. This has failed to materialise in the national league as success has been eluding them since their last success in 03-04. EB will now have to look forward to their game against arch rivals Mohun Bagan and hope that Aizawl drop points in the process.

Chennai City’s principles vindicated

Though it might be a win that gives them three very valuable points, for the I-League debutants this is much more than that. The fact that two under-22 players scored their goals and both happened to be local lads made it special for them. The owner Rohit Ramesh has always stressed that the club would like to promote local young talent and become a symbol as such. This win over their Goliath-esque rivals in the last home game of the season is what really sets this win apart. But it is not just the two goal scorers who made their mark. Captain Dharmaraj Ravanan was rock solid yet again in the back while Michal Soosairaj put in a solid shift on the flanks. Edwin Vanspaul has been yet another regular in the team and the future does indeed look brighter than what it was a few weeks ago.

That being said, Abhishek Das, Debabrata Roy and Celestine were equally important in the win as they all were brilliant on the night in shoring up the defence. Dhanapal Ganesh and Zakeer have formed a partnership that combines creativity with solidity and Charles de Souza up top has the unenviable job of chasing balls down the channels. All in all it was a great team performance from the home side.

These performances have seen the club hand out long term contracts to Edwin Vanspaul, Beautin(who has yet to make his debut in the I-League) and Nandhakumar. In the future, they would be hoping that these local players can turn out to be the faces of the club.

Nandhakumar has been a revelation

Nandhakumar has turned into a local hero at the club in recent weeks. His form has had a major upswing as he has been involved in the thick of action for the club. Assists and goals alike, the winger has been a major part of the CCFC attacking force. Head Coach Soundararajan must be credited with the motivational side of his form as he has made sure that the youngster finds his feet in the country’s top tier league. Some involvement in the Senior Division matches has also helped him stay in form and the performance against East Bengal on Sunday has put the icing on the cake for his performances in the last few matches.

His form has also given some much needed respite for the club as off the field issues continue to rise. This win could mean a whole lot more for the club in the long term process and the club would see this win as a statement to them being here in the I-League for years to come.

Raghunandhanan Narasimhan
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