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ISL 2023-24: Chennaiyin FC end Odisha's unbeaten streak, open wide race for top spot

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Chennai, March 3 (IANS) Jordan Murray scored four minutes into second half added time as Chennaiyin FC handed Odisha FC their first loss in 13 matches in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24, the 2-1 win for the Marina Machans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on Sunday night opening up the race for the top spot in the points table.

It is a result that will have ramifications across the points table, with Mumbai City FC (35) and Mohun Bagan Super Giant (33) having a good chance to displace Odisha FC (35) from the top. Simultaneously, it has brought the tenth-placed Owen Coyle-coached side level on points (18) with the sixth-placed Bengaluru FC.

More importantly, the Marina Machans have a game in hand (17) as compared to the Blues (18), and can aspire to bridge that slender gap in their coming fixtures.

Coyle insisted before the game that Chennaiyin FC play their best at home, whereas Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera acknowledged recently that every game is a final at this stage. The Juggernauts are also gearing up for the first leg of their AFC Cup inter-zonal semifinal against the Central Coast Mariners in Sydney on Thursday, and hence a result like this could not have come at a more unfavourable time for them.

However, the writing was on the wall throughout the game, with Chennaiyin FC producing one of their most coordinated performances right from the back to the front, barring a brief moment of lack of concentration that equalised scores in the 78th minute.

Ankit Mukherjee drew the first blood from a set piece five minutes into the game, with Rafael Crivellaro picking the fullback amidst a crowded box on the near post on the right side. Mukherjee charged inside and beat competition from the towering Mourtada Fall to drill the ball into the back of the net. Odisha FC tested the Chennaiyin FC resolve later on, with domestic stars Amey Ranawade and Isak Vanlalruatfela teasing Debjit Majumder through close-range efforts.

In the 39th minute, Roy Krishna teamed up with Ranawade on the right side of the box, but the fullback’s shot on the near post was thwarted by Majumder to keep the scores level. Six minutes later, the crafty Ahmed Jahouh launched in a long ball from the centre of the park for Isak, which the winger controlled admirably well before taking a shot at Majumder’s reflexes, but to no avail. It took the seasoned Krishna to do the honours deep into the second half. Fall played decoy to a corner by Jahouh, which had a vertical loop to it. Fall’s headed pass led to the unmarked Krishna, who leapt high to nod the ball in. The goal didn’t peg Chennaiyin FC back.

It instead fuelled them to find the winner, with Farukh Choudhary and Connor Shields taking precise shots from inside of the box in the following few minutes. The three points, however, came in their kitty through Jordan Murray, who jumped to hammer in a corner by Shields in the fourth minute of the added time of the second half to seal the game lock, stock, and barrel.

Chennaiyin FC will next play Hyderabad FC on March 9, whereas Odisha FC will return to the ISL later this month on March 30 against Bengaluru FC.

--IANS

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