Chennaiyin FC travelled to Pune to meet FC Pune City for a match that could’ve put either of them onto the summit of the Indian Super League. Only a draw between the two would’ve kept Atletico De Kolkata on the top of the table and that’s exactly what happened. Both teams had great chances but neither could knock the other one out.
FC Pune City Draw First Blood
The first significant moment in the game came from Mendoza who struck a swerving shot from the right that almost deceived the keeper. However, FC Pune City continued their good form from the last match in which they beat Atletico De Kolkata resoundingly. They pegged back Chennaiyin early in the game with a well worked goal. The cross came in from the right and Katsouranis met it at the near post with a very controlled shot. He steered the ball in the minor gap between the Pune keeper’s knee and the near post. Very good move, an even better finish, FC Pune City 1 – 0 Chennaiyin FC.
After five minutes, Chennaiyin FC tried to strike back a la FC Pune City. A dangerous ball came in from Elano and met the head of Khabra. Khabra headed with confidence and power but the ball went straight at Arindam, who saved. The resultant corner saw Chennaiyin FC receiving a penalty when Magliocchetti brought down Materazzi. Elano stepped up and I, like everyone else, expected the equaliser. That didn’t happen though. Elano… yes Elano… yes the leading goal scorer of the league… sent the penalty wide.
This was a very entertaining match. It went from end up end and I was surprised with FC Pune City’s game, which was confident and full of flair. This was despite the fact that they were without Trezeguet and Pennant. The two teams may have exchanged blow after blow and FC Pune City may have scored the goal but Chennaiyin FC were the dominant team if you consider their chances.
Mendoza Stands Out
Mendoza stood out for Chennaiyin FC. He got his second shot off of the game and did even better than the first one. His shot careened off the bottom of the far post. I’m glad I don’t blink much because if I had I would’ve missed that rocket of a shot. Mendoza then popped up on the right and fired another beauty. The ball swerved and required a desperate save from the FC Pune keeper again. Mendoza kept contributing in other ways too*. He next drew a cynical foul from Cirillo, fooling him to give away a freekick as well as earn a caution. With the resultant freekick, Elano rapped the crossbar with the keeper beaten.
It looked to me like one of those days when nothing goes right for a team. Arsenal fans amongst you guys must be very intimate with the feeling that Chennaiyin fans must’ve been feeling. It was still clear to me that Chennaiyin FC would pull level in this game even at this point and I wanted to see what FC Pune would do to prevent it or even deal with it afterwards. At the very least the match would turn out to be entertaining.
FC Pune City stepped up their game right after I was typing the last paragraph, as if to answer my question. They had one great chance which Gurung (I think), missed simply because of lack of composure. Three minutes later, Katsouranis came up with another chance of a tap in which was blocked. There was a moment of scramble before Chennaiyin FC mopped things up. After a period in which Chennaiyin FC dominated, this was FC Pune City again in the ascendancy.
The half ended with Mendoza getting a shot blocked inside FC Pune’s box. The blocked ball fell to Pune and the players breaked up the pitch with desire. Dudu ended up winning a freekick just outside the Chennaiyin penalty box. The freekick was wasted and that was the half time whistle. Fun match. Possibly the best first half I’ve seen till now.
Chennaiyin FC Draw Level
Throughout the match, Pune fans were cheering their players loudly. This is symptomatic of a surprising statistic – the Indian Super League is 9th in the world in terms of the average number of fans it draws. Average attendance in ISL is about 23,000.
The second half started tentatively but Chennaiyin players looked energetic but they didn’t look like scoring. I should point out that Dudu was playing well for FC Pune. According to the commentators, it’s his form that has been keeping Davide Trezeguet out of the team. I disagree. I have a feeling that he’s either unfit or injured because he isn’t even on the bench for FC Pune City.
The equaliser, I knew would come, came through the man who looked most likely to score – Mendoza Valencia. The sideward pass came from Balwant Singh and all that Mendoza had to do was sidefoot the ball in. FC Pune City 1 – 1 Chennaiyin FC. Atletico De Kolkata must be dancing on their couches. They’re probably spilling their puchhkas and pungent local mustard sauce all over themselves.
In the 72nd minute, Chennaiyin FC brought in Eric Djemba-Djemba. For those of you who don’t know, this is a player that played for Manchester United not so long back. Granted, he sucked for them but anyone who impresses Alex Ferguson to even get a game must have some skill.
Most of the second half didn’t live up to the standards that the first half had established. After 80 minutes, though, the game perked up. I still don’t understand why Franco Colomba didn’t send on Jermaine Pennant. His team clearly lacked the creative spark and I’m sorry, as good as Katsouranis is, I don’t see him as a creative midfielder.
And, that was it. The last few minutes, the game petered out. The second half, on the whole, was quite dull and boring. FC Pune City 1 – 1 Chennaiyin FC.
*What is this guy doing in India? He’s good enough to be in France or Italy. He has everything including touch, speed, fitness, and finish. Only thing he doesn’t have is passing vision.
** That’s higher than Ligue Un and Serie A.