Chennaiyin FC suffer first AFC Cup defeat

Dhaka: Chennaiyin FC endured their first AFC Cup defeat in a 3-2 loss to Abahani Limited Dhaka at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here.

After CK Vineeth had given Chennaiyin an early lead, Abahani came from behind in the second half with two goals in five minutes. Isaac Vanmalsawma drew CFC level soon after, but Mamunul Islam’s late goal handed the Dhaka side all three points.
With the result, Abahani draw level with Chennaiyin on seven points from four games.

CFC however remain top on goal difference. Chennaiyin made a bright start as Renthlei made a surging run down the right in the fourth minute, combining with Francis who was making his first AFC Cup appearance for CFC. Dinliana got into a promising position but could find only the Abahani keeper with his cross.

Chennaiyin did convert their dominance into the opening goal in the sixth minute. Isaac’s corner kick found Vineeth unmarked at the far post, the Kerala-born striker tapping it in for his first AFC Cup goal of the season, and his fifth overall in the competition.

With the half-hour mark approaching, Abahani enjoyed a spell of sustained possession. However, they could not convert their chances. In the second haolf, Abahani continued to get into promising positions. And in the 65th minute, they did find a way past the Chennaiyin backline and Karanjit. A long ball found Belfort in space, who pulled away from Mailson before placing it out of Karanjit’s reach to make it 1-1. It was the first goal conceded by CFC in their debut AFC Cup campaign in their sixth outing, including the qualifying play-off round.

Abahani then went 2-1 up after five minutes, through Masih Saighani’s well-taken free kick from the right. The Afghan defender curled it past Karanjit’s reach, his effort going in off the crossbar.In response, CFC made their first change of the evening as Thoi Singh replaced Francisco.
nd the Manipuri winger made an instant impact as he ran on to Mailson Alves’ slightly overhit pass, creating confusion in the Abahani box.

Thoi managed to keep his feet before squaring it to Isaac, who kept his calm and slid it in to make it 2-2. A frantic ten minutes seeing three goals scored, with Isaac scoring his first AFC Cup goal of the campaign akin to Vineeth.

Karanjit then made a brilliant save in the 84th minute to keep the scores level. The CFC custodian showing great reflexes to keep out Belfort’s glancing header from close range. Abahani were a threat from long throws all evening. And it was from one such chance they went 3-2 up. The second ball fell to Mamunul Islam, whose half-volley flew into the top corner.

Chennaiyin will take on Minerva Punjab in Guwahati in their penultimate AFC Cup group game on Wednesday 19 June.

Scores:

Abahani Limited Dhaka (Bangladesh) 3 (Kervens Belfort 64, Masih Saighani 69, Mamunul Islam 88) beat Chennaiyin FC (India) 2 (CK Vineeth 6, Isaac Vanmalsawma 74)

NT Bureau