Kolkata: Defending champions ATK’s woes continued with another defeat against Chennaiyin at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday. Playing their second successive game away from home, the two-time Indian Super League winners looked well destined for another draw until goals flooded late into the second half that saw the ‘Marina Machans’ triumph 3-2 notching up their third straight victory that sailed them to the top of the battle, three points clear of second placed Bengaluru FC having played a match more.
ATK’s defence combined with Debjit’s frailties have always been vulnerable during set-pieces this season and it was no different against Chennaiyin with the away side conceding two out three goals from crosses. The former Mohun Bagan custodian had been a stand-out performer for ATK last season but have already conceded seven goals this campaign. The 29-year-old has looked without confidence and lack the proper mindset often, unable to read the game.
The match began at a brisk pace with both teams missing some clear cut chances in the opening few minutes. Teddy Sheringham’s boys as usual played a possession based football often looking to surprise the Chennaiyin defence on the counter. Former ATK player Gavilán nearly gave his side the lead in the 38th minute, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, he placed his shot wide of the far post.
Unfortunately the former Getafe player limped off in the second half, but not before helping his side take the lead. It was from his corner that Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the opening goal in the 61st minute from the rebound after Sereno’s header had rattled the upright. ATK on the other hand had to replace captain Jordi Figueras with Ashutosh Mehta. Down with a goal Sheringham also brought in marquee man Robbie Keane in place of Bipin Singh.
The Irish legend’s presence put that extra pressure on the Chennaiyin defence that saw ATK equalise through Zequinha after the home side failed to clear a cross in the 77th minute. The goal seemed to have breathed a new life into the away side, who nearly took the lead three minutes later when Kuqi was put through on gaol, but the Finnish striker failed to beat Karanjit on an one on one situation.
Meanwhile, Chennaiyin took the lead for a second time when Calderon’s shot form outside the box took a big deflection of Tom Thorpe into the goal. The drama was still not over as Kqui equalised for ATK just a minute before the final whistle after Robbie Keane had found him open form a through ball.
Stunned from the sudden fightback of ATK to make it 2-2 despite going behind twice in the match, the crowd was nonetheless send into delirium when Jeje scored a third to cap off a 3-2 win for the ‘Marina Machans.’ Debjit who was vulnerable all through the night failed to collect a Gregory Nelson cross into the box, parrying it away only as far as the Mizoram lad, who made no mistake putting it into an open net, to send Chennaiyin clear to top of the points table.