Jeje’s solitary goal takes Chennaiyin into semis
FC Pune City hosted Chennaiyin FC in what was billed as the most crucial game in the league stage of the 2015 Hero Indian Super League and the visitors came out winners to seal a semi-final berth after a toughly-contested game at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Saturday.
Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the lone goal for Marco Materazzi’s men in the 64th minute to take the Super Machans into second place and break NorthEast United FC’s heart. Pune were playing for pride as their fate was already decided after having won only four out of their 13 before Saturday’s game.
David Platt rung in five changes ahead of this crucial fixture, with Steve Simonsen back in goal and Fanai Lalrempuia, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Gurjinder Kumar and Yendrick Ruiz also handed starts. Pune’s defensive mainstay Didier Zokora had to miss out on the Stallions’ last game of the season due to suspension. For Chennaiyin, Elano was handed a start by Materazzi, alongside Mailson Alves, Manuele Blasi and Harmanjot Khabra.
FC Pune City started off well, piling on pressure on the visitors with some good display of long balls and crosses and Ruiz almost gave Pune the perfect start with an acrobatic effort as he latched on a cross from Nicky Shorey with an overhead kick. The execution lacked the finishing touch though, as his effort went way off the target.
The first half was blighted by injury to Pune’s James Bailey who cluttered into Stiven Mendoza, to be replaced by Wesley Verhoek. Chennaiyin soaked up the initial pressure and grew gradually into the game and towards the end of the first half Elano was denied by a smart save by Simonsen.
The second half started in the same vein for both the teams. Bernard Mendy was sent into the mix of things to help Chennaiyin at the back. At the other end, Elano smartly got into the box all by himself and seemed to be brought down but the referee deemed it to be a dive and booked the Brazilian for it. Not long after that, Jeje found himself outside the box within shooting distance. The first shot was blocked but the ball fell again to Jeje and this time he picked his spot into the bottom left corner of Simonsen’s goal.
Pune did not let up despite conceding and continued their attack largely through Adrian Mutu but the veteran just did not find enough composure when in front of goal. The score-line remained the same till the end of the game.
The semi-final line-ups will be decided by the result from the Delhi Dynamos FC-FC Goa game on Sunday. Chennaiyin got the result they wanted but they will definitely miss their star players Elano and Mehrajuddin Wadoo in the first leg of their semi-final on account of their having picked up four yellow cards over the course of the season.
Club Award – Chennaiyin FC
Swift Moment of the Match – Steven Simonsen [FC Pune City] (Watch here)
Amul Fittest Player of the Match – Stiven Mendoza [Chennaiyin FC]
DHL Winning Pass [FC Pune City] – Nicky Shorey
ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Jeje Lalpekhlua [Chennaiyin FC] (Watch here)
Hero of the Match – Apoula Edel [Chennaiyin FC] (Watch here)