Defending champions Chennai City FC began their title defence on a winning note as they defeated debutants TRAU FC of Manipur by a solitary goal in Coimbatore on Sunday.
Adolfo Miranda scored the all-important goal of the match at a rain-soaked Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore.
The match kicked-off with the defending champions and the debutants lining up in 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations respectively as both teams showing attacking intent.
The Imphal-based side got an early free-kick in the attacking third, but Chennai’s Roberto Eslava cleared the ball safely. The home side were building patiently from the back and their new signing Katsumi Yusa was already creating problems down the left flank with some skillful and deceptive movement.
Chennai soon started showing their class as last season’s joint top scorer Pedro Manzi went very close to getting the team in front as his header went over the post.
With 30 minutes on the clock, it was an exquisite move by the defending champions as captain Manzi headed it straight at the goal post from a cross by Charles, but to the crowd’s disappointment, the ball did not go in.
In the dying moments of the first half, Chennai again came close to scoring. This time, it was Katsumi whose shot from close range on the near post went just wide.
The second half started similarly with Chennai City dominating the play. It was in the 49th minute, when the breakthrough came from a mistake by the TRAU defence, as a miscued clearance gave Chennai’s new signing Miranda an easy chance to tap it over the goal line.
Soon after, Chennai could have easily gone clear by two goals when a brilliant run by Katsumi led to an even better cross straight at the head of the unmarked Mashoor Shereef. However, poor finishing denied him of his first I-League goal as his effort went just wide of the post.
It was attack after attack by the home team, but Akbar Nawas’ charges kept falling short of adding to their lead.
TRAU goalkeeper Gurpreet also denied Pedro Manzi what could have been his first goal of the season.
With 15 minutes to go in the match, TRAU made two changes as they brought on Deepak Devrani and Abinash Ruidas. However, Chennai dominated the game till the end, coming close to scoring but TRAU somehow survived.
Pedro Manzi could have closed the game once and for all in the added time, but Gurpreet denied him once again, as he dived low at the near post to tip the ball away.
In the earlier game of the day, Churchill Brothers began the season in emphatic fashion with a 3-0 thumping of Punjab FC at Fatorda, Goa.
Lalkhawpuimawia opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time to give the hosts the lead before Wilis Plaza doubled the advantage twenty minutes from time.
Lalkhawpuimawia then added gloss to the win by adding Churchill Brothers’ third in the 82nd minute.
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