Chennaiyin FC moved to the top of Group E in the 2019 AFC Cup after the Indian side defeated Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club 2-0 at The Arena Stadium on Wednesday.
Both teams went into the Matchday Two encounter looking to pick up their maiden win in the AFC Cup and, indeed, aiming to score their first goal in the competition. After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, it was Chennaiyin’s overseas players who proved the heroes as quick-fire goals from Australian Chris Herd and Brazilian Mailson Veriato early in the second half secured all three points.
Chennaiyin took control of the early proceedings and had their first sight on goal just after the five-minute mark but Jeje Lalpekhlua saw his effort from 10 yards deflected narrowly wide.
Although the home side dominated the possession in the ensuing 25 minutes, they struggled to create clear-cut chances, but Mohammed Rafi shot just wide from the centre of the area after being picked out by Renthlei Laldinliana’s low cross from the right shortly after the half-hour mark.
The visitors had a rare sight on goal in first-half stoppage time but Sujal Shrestha curled his free-kick from 25 yards into the arms of goalkeeper Karanjit Singh as the sides went in level.
John Gregory’s Chennaiyin again came out stronger after the interval and broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when former Aston Villa player Herd’s attempt from 20 yards deflected off Saheed Azeez and looped over goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha into the back of the net.
The hosts then doubled their advantage almost immediately after when captain Mailson headed home Anirudh Thapa’s corner from the right to open up a two-goal lead.
Manang came close to pulling one back midway through the half but Abishek Rijal’s looping header went just over the bar after the substitute had been picked out with an inch-perfect ball over the top from Gurung Heman.
Rijal was again unlucky late on when his acrobatic effort following Kamal Shrestha’s delivery was tipped wide by custodian Singh as the Nepalese side were condemned to back-to-back defeats.
Chennaiyin now sit above Abahani Limited Dhaka on goal difference after the Bangladesh side drew 2-2 with India’s Minerva Punjab in Wednesday’s other Group E clash.
The top two will face off in Ahmedabad in two weeks’ time in the first game of a crucial doubleheader, while Manang returns to India to take on Minerva as they look to keep their qualification hopes alive.