PUNE: Chennaiyin FC made light of the home disadvantage and the absence of key players as they blanked Atletico de Kolkata 3-0 in the first leg semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League in Pune on Saturday.
Chennaiyin FC were forced to play their home semi-final in Pune due to the current situation in Chennai but that did not seem to matter as they enjoyed an easy ride. Chennaiyin FC led 1-0 at half-time with a stunning free-kick goal from Bruno Pelissari (38th minute) and added two more goals in the second session through Jeje Lalpekhlua (57th) and Stiven Mendoza (68th).
The three-goal victory gives Chennaiyin FC massive advantage going into the second leg semifinal on December 16, especially since manager Marco Materazzi will be able to select marquee player Elano Blumer and defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo, both of who were suspended for this game.
Atletico de Kolkata know what it takes to qualify for the final and the defending champions kept it tight at the back in the away semi-final. Chennaiyin FC, on the otherhand, tried to break down the rival defence methodically but it was only a stunning free-kick that helped them open the account.
Bruno Pelissari was the man who put Chennaiyin FC ahead in the 38th minute when his free-kick from a distance swirled and bamboozled Kolkata goalkeeper Amrinder Singh before entering the net.
Chennaiyin FC were confident when they took the field in the second session and had another reason to celebrate in the 57th minute. Kolkata goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was guilty of venturing out and was caught on the wrong foot by Mendoza, who got the better of him and set it up for Jeje inside the box. The India striker kept his cool to calmly slot the ball inside the goal despite three defenders crowding the goal.
Chennaiyin FC virtually put the match beyond Kolkata’s reach in the 68th minute. A long clearance from Mailson saw the ball land at the feet of Mendoza. The Colombian striker relayed the ball to Jeje who smartly scooped the ball for Mendoza and the Golden Boot leader made no mistake after beating the off-side trap.
Kolkata were subdued for most part and did not have too many chances to get something out of this game. Their leading scorer Iain Hume was kept under check, and despite his best efforts, could not pull a goal back.
Coach Antonio Lopez Habas even introduced Dejan Lekic in the first session itself but save for a shot early in the second session that missed the target by a whisker the Serbian striker hardly created a flutter.
Chennaiyin FC will feel confident they can steal a place in the final when they play the reverse fixture away in Kolkata onDecember 16. Incidentally, last year Chennaiyin FC had lost their first leg semi-final fixture 0-3 against Kerala Blasters.