Chennaiyin FC managed a slender 1-0 win away to FC Pune City at the Balewadi Stadium on Saturday to secure a place in the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals. A 64th minute goal from Jeje Lalpekhlua was enough to seal the victory for the away side.
However, Elano Blumer and Mehraj Wadoo will miss the first leg of the semi-finals through suspension after picking up their fourth yellow cards.
David Platt made five changes as Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Yendrick Ruiz, Govin Singh, Fanai Lalrempuia and Steve Simonsen made their way into the starting eleven. On the other hand, Marco Materazzi too made four changes with Mailson, Manuel Blasi, Harmanjot Khabra and midfield maestro Elano Blumer being included in the line-up.
Fanai Lalrempuia crafted the home side’s first opportunity with a dangerous cross from the right just evading Adrian Mutu’s outstretched boot in the middle of the box.
Then from the following corner, Lalrempuia collected the ball and set up Gurjinder Singh in the box, with a beautifully weighted ball form the right. The latter’s powerful drive was punched away by a correctly positioned Armenian.
In the 15th minute, an Edel clearance saw Jeje head the ball for Mendosa. The striker was left in acres of space on the right side of the box. He had enough time to send the FC Pune City defender the wrong way, shift the ball onto his preferred left foot and send a pile-driver at Simonsen’s goal. However, the former Everton custodian was equal to the challenge and beat away the opportunity.
Midway into the first half, Bailey was substituted for Wesley Verhoek as the former injured his shoulder.
Elano had the chance of the match in the 43rd minute as he dodged past Govin’s tackle and curled a shot towards the far post. However, Simonsen sprang to his left and palmed the chance away for a corner.
A moment of controversy erupted in the 57th minute as Elano seemed to go down in the box because of a push in the back by Johnson. However, the referee adjudicated that it was simulation by the Brazilian and hence showed him a yellow card.
However, Pune’s Balewadi stadium would soon have its life vacuumed out of it as Chennaiyin took the lead. It was a moment of slipshod defending that enabled Jeje Lalpekhlua to score in the 64th minute. The ball was won down the right and Mendosa’s pass found Jeje whose initial shot was blocked, but he had another bite at the cherry from the rebound and he made no mistake of slotting past Simonsen.
For Chennaiyin, the match became a simple game of break and retain the ball as they constantly countered Pune City with pace down the right through Thoi and Mendosa.
Mendosa broke down the right again and though he saw his shot blocked, he tried to setup Thoi, who had burst with him down the right. The midfielder’s shot was basted straight at Simonsen who did well to hang on to the shot and set-off a Pune City counter.
The clock wound down with Wadoo receiving a yellow card for time wasting. Mendosa turned the Pune defense inside out with a quick flick a run from a throw-in down the right. His shot was deflected away for a corner. The resulting corner found Mailson in the box, whose snapshot on the turn was tame and went wide of the goal.
The referee blew his whistle for full-time as Chennaiyin FC progressed to the semi-finals., whilst Pune crashed another defeat.