Chennaiyin FC defeated Ahmedabad’s ARA FC by a 3-1 margin in their first pre-season friendly at The Arena by Transstadia in Ahmedabad on Sunday. New signings Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis were on the scoresheet, along with the returning young Indian forward Rahim Ali also netting from close range. Head Coach John Gregory gave all the members of Chennaiyin’s pre-season squad a run-out and some valuable game time in what was a lively encounter.
New signing Lucian Goian led Chennaiyin FC out in the first period, as the game got off to a slow start. Chennaiyin saw more of the ball but didn’t make many inroads in the opening exchanges.
Goian partnered Eli Sabia at the back from the outset, with another new face in Edwin Vanspaul playing at right-back, with a familiar face in Jerry at left-back. Tamil Nadu midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh partnered Germanpreet Singh in midfield, as Thoi Singh and another newbie in Romanian Dragos Firtulescu started on either flanks. Upfront, it was a mix of experience and youth, as Andre Schembri and Rahim Ali played in tandem.
Chennaiyin FC eventually found their feet and took the lead through Schembri. The Maltese forward’s run into the box was found by a pinpoint Dragos pass, the former taking a touch before firing in from an acute angle, his shot taking a slight deflection.
After the half hour mark, John gave youngster Samik Mitra a few minutes in goal as Karanjit made way. Chennaiyin FC continued to link up well, but the final finish was lacking.
The finish did come for Chennaiyin FC with five minutes to go for the break. Dragos found an overlapping Edwin on the right flank, the new Chennaiyin FC No. 8 sending in a delightful cross which Schembri did well to loop goalwards. The ARA keeper was beaten all ends up, as an onrushing Rahim Ali tapped home from inches out.
It was a frantic end to the first period as ARA pulled one back from a corner as it ended 2-1 at the interval.
It was a brand new Chennaiyin FC side in the second period, head Coach Gregory ringing in the changes. New signing between the sticks Vishal Kaith got a run-out, as did Brazilian midfielder Rafael Crivellaro and Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis, Chennaiyin FC’s new No. 9. New winger Lallianzuala Chhangte also got a look in, along with fellow India international Anirudh Thapa in midfield, the latter fresh from his exploits against Qatar in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for India. Youngsters Deepak Tangri, Hendry Antonay and Reamsochung Aimol also featuring alongwith Laldinliana Renthlei and Zohmingliana Ralte.
Crivellaro and Valskis were sharp from the restart, the Brazilian pouncing on a loose ball and finding the No. 9 in the box, the latter smashing a volley over the bar.
Valskis looked lively, creating a number of half chances as the second period progressed. The link up play between midfield and attack also was good, with Thapa central to the action.
Valskis eventually got his chance, after he was pushed from behind in the box as he jumped to head a Hendry cross goalwards. The referee pointed to the spot; Valskis stepping up and sending his penalty low to the keeper’s right to make it 3-1.
Sanjiban Ghosh was the final change in goal as Vishal Kaith made way. Chennaiyin FC controlled possession in the closing stages as it finished 3-1 to the Marina Machans in the first match outing of pre-season.