Aizawl FC’s good season will go on for a bit longer as the newly crowned I-League champions toppled Chennai City FC 3-2 in a frantic encounter at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Sunday evening.
They seemed to be in a celebration hangover as CCFC started strong with Charles D’ Souza gave the southerners an early lead. Edwin Vanspaul’s shot had hit the bar a few minutes earlier but D’Souza made no mistake from Nandhakumar’s low cross into the box as the Brazilian lashed the ball home, giving Albino Gomes no chance.
It was shoddy defending from Aizawl as they should have really cleared the ball as V Soundarajan’s team grew in confidence with each attack. Mahmoud Al-Amna was tightly marked as CCFC won most of the midfield battles in the first half.
Lalmuankima found himself in some space but shot over as Khalid Jamil’s frustration at his side’s profligacy almost boiled over as Chennai’s second goal went in. Michael Soosairaj played a defence-splitting pass into the path of Vanspaul who expertly chipped it over the onrushing Gomes to double his side’s lead.
Jamil then took Lalmuankima off for Aizawl’s hero against Shillong Lajong last Sunday, William Lalnunfela as the ex-Mumbai coach plotted a way back into the match.
The Mizos started the second half in rousing fashion as it was Al-Amna who ran into the box and poked home a finish to kickstart Aizawl’s comeback.
The champions were level ten minutes later as Laldanmawia Ralte coming off an impressive season, stooped to head in Jayesh Rane’s delightful cross which pierced the CCFC defenders.
Dan Mawia then got his second on the night as Alfred Jaryan’s incisive through ball was smartly finished off to Jamil and Aizawl’s delight.
With the win, Aizawl have taken the early initiative in the group where East Bengal and Churchill Brothers drew their first game early on in the day. Aizawl face Churchill next while Chennai City need a point or more against East Bengal to keep their Federation Cup alives in their first ever appearance in the tournament.
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