Chennaiyin FC played out a 2-2 draw against Army Red FT in their opening match of the 2022 Durand Cup at Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Saturday, August 20.
For Chennaiyin FC, Julius Duker (89′) and Edwin Vanspaul scored late (90+4’h), while L. Khongsai (55′) and Liton Shil (90+6′) scored for the Army men.
Chennaiyin FC fielded eight new players — Ajith Kumar, Fallou Diagne, Aakash Sangwan, Duker, Sajal Bag, Jiteshwor Singh, Jockson Dhas, and Petar Sliskovic — in their starting line-up. Skipper Anirudh Thapa, goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and Narayan Das were the familiar faces.
After a slow start, Thomas Brdaric’s men eased into the game and dominated proceedings. In the first half, Croatian forward Sliskovic was played through by Jiteshwor, but his shot sailed over the crossbar.
Thapa then made a lunging effort right at the brink of half-time. However, the Army Red custodian showed good reflexes to deny the two-time ISL champions as both sides failed to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes.
Army Red took the lead 10 minutes after the change of ends when L. Khongsai’s header from a corner found the back of the net.
Trailing by a goal, Chennaiyin FC switched gears in a bid to find the much-needed equaliser in the final quarter of the game.
In the 69th minute, Duker’s shot hit a flurry of red shirts, denying Chennaiyin a way back into the contest. A couple of minutes later, Sliskovic got a double chance inside the box but failed to convert.
The final moments of the match witnessed heart-thumping action as three goals were scored in 10 minutes.
Duker scored the equaliser for Chennaiyin FC from Thapa’s corner in the 89th minute. Super-sub Edwin Vanspaul then scored his first goal for the club with a thunderous volley from outside the box to hand Chennaiyin FC the lead.
But two minutes later, Liton Shil equalised for Army Red to draw curtains on the nail-biting contest.
Chennaiyin FC will face reigning ISL champions Hyderabad FC in their second group stage fixture on August 26.