ISL: Gritty Chennai beat Pune City 1-0, book semifinals spot

  • Kushal Phatarpekar, Hindustan Times, Pune
  • Updated: Dec 06, 2015 10:42 IST
Jeje Lalpekhlua scored his fifth goal of the season to put Chennaiyin in the semifinals. (Photo: ISL/Sportzpics)

Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi, spent his playing days as one of the sharper defenders in world football. Under his tutelage, however, it is the forwards who seem to be enjoying the most.

In two seasons, his strike-force has been his strongest link. On Saturday, as his side were in pursuit of a point to advance into the semis, his forward line did not disappoint, beating FC Pune City 1-0 in a nerve-wracking tie in Pune on Saturday.

Last season, Elano had led the goal-scoring charts in the Indian Super League (ISL). This season, Stiven Mendoza heads the list with 11 goals. The coach’s tactics have also meant that Indian Jeje Lalpekhlua has also prospered. On Saturday, he scored his fifth goal of the season, to seal Chennaiyin’s progress into the last-four stage.

The team has largely depended on Elano and Mendoza to provide the goals this season.

Chennaiyin, however, will have to do without Elano in the first leg of their semifinals, with the Brazilian picking up a yellow card in the match on Saturday, his fourth of the season.

In the first half, with stakes running high, Chennaiyin’s nervousness was clear, letting Mendoza make the forward runs, while the rest stayed back. However, in the second period, a switch was apparent, as Jeje and Mendoza started hunting in pairs. With Elano playing the anchor role behind them, the passes to Mendoza and Jeje were accurate. Jeje made most of one such play, to score the winner in the 65th minute.

Home leg likely to be in Pune or Mumbai

With Chennai struggling to emerge from the calamity of the floods, the organisers are contemplating shifting Chennaiyin FC’s home leg of their semifinal clash to either Pune or Mumbai.

According to an official, the venue will be finalised on Sunday. “We are monitoring the situation in Chennai and it still looks grave. We cannot hold the tie in Delhi, Kolkata or Goa as they will already be hosting semifinal games. As such, all other ISL venues are options, however, considering Chennai played Saturday’s game at Pune, it is likely that we might keep the game in Pune or Mumbai after taking the logistics into consideration,” the official said.

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