Coimbatore, Feb 5: Defending Champions Chennai City FC returned to winning ways by registering a solitary-goal (1-0) victory over All India Football Federation's (AIFF) developmental side Indian Arrows in their Hero I-League match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Wednesday (February 5).
Katsumi Yusa bagged the match-winning goal in the 49th minute, thus extinguishing a rough patch for the Southerners.
CCFC Head Coach Akbar Nawas made a host of alterations, naming four changes. Jockson Dhas was reinstated to the starting XI, with Vijay N finding a place in the four-man midfield. Shem Marton Eugene slotted in for Roberto Eslava at the back, and new signing Rohit Mirza started upfront, making his debut.
Indian Arrows Head Coach Shanmugam Venkatesh seemed happy to stick to the formula that worked wonders against Quess East Bengal, making only one change by recalling Harpreet Singh at the back in place of Bikash Yumnam.
Buoyed by a passionate home crowd, the Champions were carrying the weight of huge expectations on their shoulders and with the prospect of three home defeats on the trot looming large, a response was inevitable.
The hosts pressed hard right from kick-off, and were clearly dominant in the opening stages. Chances were in abundance but the redemption story needed goals, the first glance of which arrived in the 25th minute.
Fito Miranda's left-footed curler was spilt by Arrows keeper Biaka Jongte and with a flurry of orange shirts pouncing onto the pieces, Akash Mishra's timely clearance bailed out the visitors for the time being.
Venkatesh's side had a golden opportunity just two minutes later when a delightful through ball from Vikram Partap Singh put Nikhil Raj through on goal but Chennai custodian Nauzet Santana did well to come off his line and avert the danger.
Just seconds before the half-time whistle, Katsumi Yusa forced Harpreet Singh into losing possession inside his box and with the goal gaping, squared it off to Fito Miranda on his left, who had an empty net in front but mistimed his attempt as the ball went begging.
Chennai weren't ready to rue missed chances, and in the 49th minute, found the goal they had been so desperate for. Half-time substitute Jishnu Balakrishnan's immaculate cross found Katsumi in the box, who headed towards goal but agonisingly struck the crossbar. The ricochet fell straight back to him and the veteran made no mistake with the second bite of the cherry.
Despite Chennai's overall dominance, their lead was slender which prompted coach Venkatesh into introducing Rohit Danu midway through the second half and going all-out attack.
Ayush Adhikari's delightful delivery found Vikram Partap, and the skipper chested it down beautifully to put himself through but Nauzet Santana was alert, playing a 'sweeper-keeper' and rushing off his line. With the angle being closed down, Vikram pulled his trigger early and tried lobbying the Spaniard, but got the elevation wrong as it landed safely on top of the net.
Rohit Danu created another glorious chance in the 77th minute, with some neat footwork down the right and with a sudden burst of pace, cut his marker off and squared it to his left for Vikram who made a total hash of it.
Chennai held on to that solitary goal advantage to get back to winning ways, which will serve as a huge sense of relief for Akbar Nawas' men. They have now moved up a place to eighth, with 11 points while the Arrows will need to go back to the drawing board and reassess their strategies before they travel to Imphal for the face-off with Neroca on February 11.
Katsumi Yusa was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match.
Source: AIFF Release