Chennaiyin suffers first loss in AFC Cup

Goes down to Abahani Dhaka; still in hunt for next round

Chennaiyin FC suffered its first defeat of the AFC Cup, going down 3-2 to Abahani Limited Dhaka in a Group-E match here on Wednesday, but still remains in the hunt for the next round.

C.K. Vineeth gave Chennaiyin the lead in the seventh minute but Abahani fought back in the second half with two goals in five minutes through Kervens Belfort (64th) and Masih Saighani (69th). Isaac Vanmalsawma drew Chennaiyin level in the 74th minute but Mamunul Islam’s 88th minute goal handed the home side all three points.

With Wednesday’s result, Abahani drew level with Chennaiyin on top of the group on seven points from four games. Chennaiyin was playing its first away match of the tournament.

Contrasting halves

The two teams played out two contrasting halves, the second of which saw three goals packed in the space of 10 minutes.

Chennaiyin, which beat Abahani by a solitary goal in the first leg in Ahmedabad courtesy a late goal, took the lead when Vineeth successfully converted a corner kick.

The attacks continued from the Indian club as it tested Sahidul Alam on multiple occasions within the first 30 minutes.

Abahani too created a few chances in the first half but was guilty of not capitalising on them. In the 30th minute, Sunday broke into the box from the left but smashed a rebound from a defender over the bar.

Minutes later, Jewel Rana had another chance from a cross but failed to connect from metres away. Karanjit’s neat work with the gloves also denied them a couple of more opportunities near the half-time mark.

Pressing hard

The home side pressed hard to equalise throughout the second half and kept the Chennaiyin defence busy. Just when things started to drift Chennaiyin’s way, Belfort succeeded in finding the back of the net with the deftest of touches after chesting down a long ball and cleverly dodging past Mailson.

Five minutes later, Abahani turned the tables on Chennaiyin when Masih Saighani delivered a perfect left-footed free-kick from the edge of the box to make it two goals in five minutes for the home side.

The visitors came back strongly within the next five minutes as the newly introduced Thoi Singh dazzled his way past Abahani’s defenders before creating a chance for Isaac Vanmalsawma, who tapped it into an open goal to equalise.

An 88th-minute throw-in, however, allowed Mamunul Islam to deliver the knock-out punch as he found space in a crowded box to slot in a spectacular left-footer.

Chennaiyin tried hard to claw its way back into the game after that but the equaliser eluded it.

The result:

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