The Marina Machans made multiple changes to their starting XI on Monday (September 5). Debjit Majumder returned to Chennaiyin's goal while fullback Ajith Kumar, midfielder Sajal Bag and winger Ninthoi Meetei made their way back into the team.
Centre back Fallou Diagne also returned from suspension. Chennaiyin started the game on a positive note and got their first chance in the eighth minute. Ninthoi played a nice ball to Petar Sliskovic from the right wing. The Croatian striker tried to side-heel the ball into the net but an alert NEROCA goalkeeper Soram Poirei averted the danger.
But Poirei had no chance seven minutes later when Thapa scored a brilliant goal. NEROCA defender David Simbo failed to clear a dangerous ball that was targeted toward Sliskovic. Thapa followed the loose ball before controlling it with a lovely first touch and then unleashing a powerful right footer that got deflected for Chennaiyin's first goal and the skipper's second goal of the tournament.
The goal boosted Chennaiyin's confidence as they moved around the ball comfortably before NEROCA striker John Chidi threatened to equalise in the 29th minute. Chidi outmuscled Vafa and tried to curl one in past Majumder but he was off-target.
Thapa the hero
Chennaiyin could have extended their lead in the 42nd minute through Julius Duker but Poirei thwarted his intelligent header by tipping the ball over the upright. The Marina Machans sealed the match in the 71st minute.
Vafa found space between Neroca defenders and headed home from a Thapa free-kick from the right. While it was Vafa's second goal in the tournament, Thapa made an assist for the third time. Chennaiyin defenders held firm for the rest of the match to ensure the win and the team's progression to the knockout stages.
Rajasthan makes it
Earlier, Rajasthan United FC too secured their Durand Cup 2022 quarterfinal berth with a 2-0 win over Indian Navy FT at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. After 73 minutes of goalless action, Rajasthan took the lead through Youssef Atriss, who slid in at the far post to turn home Sergio Barbosa's cross.
Barbosa himself then found the back of the net in the 88th minute after being put through by teen prodigy Gyamar Nikum to get the comfort goal as they made it to the round-of-eight in the oldest football tournament's in Asia.