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Chennaiyin FC U-18s qualify for knockout stages with game to spare

Chennaiyin FC U-18 striker Vijay Thangavel. (Photo courtesy: Chennaiyin FC)
Chennaiyin FC U-18 striker Vijay Thangavel. Photo courtesy: Chennaiyin FC

The Chennaiyin FC U-18 team secured qualification to the quarter-finals of the Hero Elite League final round with a game to spare, following a 1-0 win over defending champions Shillong Lajong U-18s at the Nagoa Ground here today. An early second half goal from Vijay Thangavel was enough to hand CFC their second consecutive win in the final round, the striker adding to his brace in the 4-1 win over Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) two days back. The win takes CFC to the top of Group B with six points while Minerva Punjab FC occupy second place with four points following their 3-0 win over RFYC earlier in the day. Shillong Lajong FC are third with one point and RFYC in fourth with zero points, with all teams left with one group game to play.

The CFC U-18s have qualified for the knockout stages of the Hero Elite League in their debut appearance in the final round, in just their second year of participation. Chennaiyin FC conclude their Group B schedule in the final round when they take on Minerva Punjab on Friday 1st February 2019 at the Utorda Ground here at 9 AM. CFC will take on either the winner or runner-up from Group D depending on the final position they finish in.

The CFC starting eleven was unchanged from the win over RFYC in their final round opener. Shillong Lajong came into this one on the back of a 0-0 draw against Minerva Punjab.

It was a cagey opening to the game with Chennaiyin dominating the ball and Lajong looking to play on the counter.

Aman Chetri looked threatening on CFC’s right flank. The closest he came though was through a shot straight at the keeper, at the end of the solo run and one-two with striker Jaya Ruban.

Joysana Singh on the other CFC flank too looked lively. He made a few good runs into the Lajong box and had a couple of attempts blocked, as his finishing in the final third was lacking.

Arguably the best chance of a goalless first half fell to CFC striker Vijay Thangavel. The Bengaluru boy was picked out by a Harsh Bartwal cross after a quick exchange with Aman. Vijay however couldn’t connect properly in front of goal, as Joysana was adjudged offside on the rebound.

The second half got off to an eventful start as CFC took the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances. A long throw in from Mohammed Sarif Khan ended up in the back of the net with Vijay getting the last touch.

Lajong changed their gameplan after CFC’s opener and came out hard in search of the equalizer. They hit the woodwork from a header midway through the second period and created a number of half chances.

The team from Meghalaya continued their onslaught on the CFC goal while dominating possession. There were a couple of goalmouth scrambles that CFC survived, while threatening themselves on the break. Aman had a chance on the counter, but again he fired his shot straight at the Lajong keeper.

CFC held on in the closing stages to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win and qualification to the knockout stages of the final round.

(Chennaiyin FC)