The opening game of Hero Super Cup was a battle beyond the consequences of the 90-minutes of battle on the pitch in the round of 16 matches as ISL Champions Chennaiyin FC faced I league mid-table boys Aizawl FC.
It was a battle of “haves ” against the “have-nots” as cash-rich Chennaiyin FC’s star-studded side managed by former England International John Gregory took on Aizawl FC who mostly have a local squad of Mizo lads playing alongside Leonce Dodoz, Masih Saighani, Alfred Jaryan and Andrei Ionescu.
It was Aizawl FC who came out attacking using the wings and a compact defense as midfield combination of Alfred Jaryan and Masih Saighani had a brilliant game to repulse Chennaiyin’s build-up play in the central part of the pitch.
The opening goal came in the 22nd minute from a brilliant run of Andrei Ionescu who took the Chennaiyin backline all by himself to evade a couple of blocks to curl it past Karanjit Singh to give Aizawl FC a 1-0 lead in the crucial knock-out game.
Chennayin FC looked dangerous in the second half with the induction of Thoi Singh on the flanks as Chennaiyin FC looked ominous going forward stretching the Aizawl backline as Aizawl FC was contended to put 10 men behind the ball and defend the slender lead.
The equalizer finally came deep into the game in the 89th minute when Mailson Alves slotted from point-blank range after Thoi Singh’s header fell to him deflecting from the crossbar.
Locked at 1-1 as match rolled on to extra time, it was Aizawl FC’s Andrei Ionescu once again who rattled the net with another curling shot past Karanjit inside the box as Chennai defenders failed to close him down in the first minute of the extra time. Aizawl looked to get Chennaiyin FC on the break, through Leonce Dodoz and Ionescu as Santosh Kashyap reshaped the formation to 4-4-1-1 to put more men behind the ball to protect the lead.
In the second half of extra time, Chennaiyin FC managed to grab an equalizer for the second time in the game in the 115th minute as Dhanachandra’s grounded shot rolled into the goal through a crowd of Aizawl defenders as the unsighted goalkeeper had no chance to react.
Locked at 2-2 as the match went into the penalty shoot-out, Aizawl scored all their shots as Chennaiyin FC’s Mohd. Rafi was the guilty man of missing the goal ensuring a 5-3 win for the I-League side in a truly remarkable opening game of Hero Super Cup.