Pune: Chennaiyin FC took a definitive step towards the Indian Super League-2 (ISL) final after a 3-0 victory over defending champions Atletico de Kolkata in their semi-final first leg encounter at Balewadi Stadium on Saturday.
Also read: ISL 2 - Chennaiyin FC crush Atletico de Kolkata 3-0 in 1st leg semi-final
Chennaiyin FC's Jeje Lalpekhlua (centre) tackles ATK players on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Chennaiyin were forced to play the home leg of their semi-final in Pune, nearly 900 kms away from Chennai, because of the ongoing flooding in the South Indian city. However, they looked completely at home as goals from Bruno Pelissari, Jeje Lalpekhlua and John Stiven Mendoza Valencia giving them a healthy advantage going into the second leg encounter on Wednesday.
'Not in the final yet'
The margin of victory left even Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi surprised. "I didn't expect this result as Kolkata have never been beaten by such a big margin in two seasons. I hope I can be chilled out and relaxed after today's result. But in Kolkata there will be 60-70,000 supporters in the stands. We're not in the in final yet," the Italian remarked.
Chennai's hunger, as Kolkata's coach Antonio Habas put it, was on display right from the start as they dominated the game before taking the lead in the 38th minute from a stunning free-kick from Pelissari. The Brazilian executed a swerving, dipping free-kick from nearly 36 yards out that hoodwinked Kolkata's goalkeeper Amrinder Singh into going the wrong way while it flew to his left.
Chennai doubled their lead in the 57th minute after a blunder from Amrinder. A long ball from Chennai's half caught the Kolkata defence unaware with an unmarked Valencia leaping onto the ball. Amrinder, in a rush of blood, charged out of his box towards the left flank where he was comprehensively beaten by Valencia before he squared the ball to Jeje. The Indian forward made no mistake and slotted the ball into the net.
The hosts twisted the knife in the 68th minute when Jeje received a pass from Valencia at the edge of the box. The Indian forward flicked the ball over the heads of two Kolkata defenders for Valencia to slot into the bottom left corner.