Chennaiyin FC suffered their first defeat of the AFC Cup, going down 2-3 to Abahani Limited Dhaka in a Group E match, but still remain in the hunt for a next round berth.
CK 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 were playing their first away match of the tournament.
The two teams played out two contrasting halves, the second of which saw three goals packed in a space of 10 minutes.
Chennaiyin, who had beaten Abahani by a solitary goal in the first leg in Ahmedabad courtesy a late goal, took the lead in the seventh minute. Vineeth was successful in converting a corner into a goal with minimal fuss.
The attacks continued from the Indian club as they tested Sahidul Alam on multiple occasions within the first 30 minutes.
Abahani were able to create a few chances in the first half but were 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 from the bar. Karanjit’s neat work with the gloves also denied them a couple of more opportunities near the half-time mark.
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 in the 64th minute.
In the 69th minute, 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 five minutes as the newly introduced Thoi Singh dazzled his way past Abahani 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 to send Abahani into the lead once again.
Chennaiyin tried hard to claw their way back into the game after that but the equaliser eluded them.
Chennaiyin face Minerva Punjab FC in their penultimate group match on June 19 in Guwahati while Abahani play against bottom-placed Manang Marshyangdi of Nepal.