The incoming manager John Gregory, alive to the task entrusted to him, wasted no time in cracking the whip to straighten the team out. Whatever the methods he employed, they whipped the team into shape with there being further evidence of Chennaiyin kicking that worrying habit for good in the first few matches.
In what was seen as a happy reversal of the preceding season’s trend, the said team started scoring goals of its own with barely a few minutes remaining to lend credence that this revamped side had undergone a complete transformation. In short, it seemed that things were going like clockwork with a fresh blueprint for success chalked out.
However, much to its consternation, Chennaiyin has found that it’s still some way off the promised land as a couple of recent untoward occurrences suggest that the club hasn’t entirely distanced itself from its sordid past. Chennaiyin’s defensive frailties were in full view during the second-half added time against Kerala Blasters and it was afflicted with the same ills against Delhi Dynamos that cost it two valuable points.
Those were matches that it could, and should, have won without much fuss. Its failure to subjugate Delhi, the front-runner to finish with wooden spoon this season, must have been the most bitter and acrid pill it would have swallowed in a long time. The assistant coach Sabir Pasha, filling in for the suspended John Gregory, was left dwelling on tackling the vexatious issue that refuses to disappear.
However, what should mitigate his problem to a large extent when his team faces FC Pune City on Saturday is the return of the regular captain, and the bulwark against opposition’s incursions, Henrique Sereno, who will wear the armband after serving a one-match suspension. The last time these two clubs met, Chennaiyin emerged the victor with who else but its captain Sereno scoring the winner that came off a header from a set-piece.
Pune, too, is without its regular coach Ranko Popovic, but what will hurt them more is the absence of its stalwart Marcelinho, who is its leading goal scorer with six strikes that includes a hattrick. With 16 points from nine matches, Pune is hot on the heels of Chennaiyin, which is ahead by just one point.
Heading into its match on Saturday, you could expect Pune to be clamouring for its pound of flesh as in seven previous attempts against Chennaiyin, it couldn’t come anywhere close to snatching a win.
Without Marcelinho, Pune may have to wait a little longer to have a shot at grabbing all three points. Chennaiyin’s defenders will have the last word on the outcome and it will boil down to them not acting up, especially at the death.