Chennaiyin beat FC Pune City for first home win

The match saw a much improved performance from the home side, who were reeling from defeat to NorthEast United FC in their last outing.

Stiven Mendoza is the top scorer of the ISL with 6 goals.   -  M. VEDHAN

Elano (right) of Chennaiyin Fc and Zakora of Pune City in action.   -  M. VEDHAN

Mendy of Chennaiyin FC scores off a header.   -  M. VEDHAN

Chennaiyin FC record their first home victory in this year’s ISL with a 2-1 win against high-fliers FC Pune City, at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, here on Saturday. The home side have three wins and three losses so far, and are sitting on nine points. Goals from Bernard Mendy and Stiven Mendoza were enough for the home side to brush past Pune, who pulled one back through substitute Kalu Uche.

The match saw a much improved performance from the home side, who were reeling from defeat to NorthEast United FC in their last outing, in Guwahati. It was a familiar story for Chennaiyin as Elano and Mendoza were instrumental in their victory. The duo got able support, on either flanks, from Jayesh Rane and Thoi Singh, who made his return to the starting eleven. The quartet proved to be a class above the Pune defence line, creating chance after chance.

From the start, Chennaiyin were the better side and nearly scored in the seventh minute. Elano pounced upon a poor back-pass by Pune’s Gouramangi Singh but goalkeeper Steve Simonsen put in a last ditch tackle and cleared the danger.

Pune were playing the waiting game and their patience almost paid off. In the 12th minute, Pune skipper Didier Zokora picked up the ball and poked it for Ruiz on the left flank. Pune’s no. 7 took a couple of touches and unleashed a right-footed drive from 30 yards out, which whizzed past the right hand post.

But soon after, Chennaiyin took control of the game with Elano pulling the strings from midfield yet again. In the 20th minute, Jayesh Rane put in a cross from the left for Elano. The Brazilian controlled it beautifully in the box, twisted and shot from around 12 yards. However, Simonsen was up to the task and made a brilliant save to maintain parity. The rebound fell to Thoi Singh, but he somehow missed the target.

The home side broke the deadlock in the 34th minute through defender Mendy. Dhanachandra Singh launched a long-throw from the left flank, which found the Frenchman’s head. The ball found the bottom right corner of the net, leaving Simonsen with no chance.

The second half started off with Tuncay Sanli missing from what seemed a promising range. That miss proved to be costly as it was Chennaiyin who found the net in the 48th minute to double their lead. Mendoza latched onto a superb through ball from Elano and the Colombian beautifully rounded the keeper before slotting home. This was his sixth goal of the season.

With the greater share of possession and chances, the home side didn’t give FC Pune City a sniff at goal. With the game in control, Chennaiyin brought on Fikru for Mendoza, who got a hero’s send-off during the substitution. However, that break in momentum proved a bit costly as Pune pulled one back in the 74th minute.

A scrappy goal, substitute Nigerian Kalu Uche finished from three yards. A cross from the left flank was poorly handled by Chennaiyin’s Karanjit Singh and the ball dropped to Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who fluffed his shot from point-blank range. It fell kindly to Uche, who obliged.

The goal breathed new life to the game, which was being dominated by the home side until then. Pune’s marquee player Adrian Mutu showed signs of intent, but didn’t manage to threaten the goalkeeper. He tried an overhead kick in injury time but it flashed wide of the right post.

With this win, Chennaiyin leapfrog FC Pune City to second place on better goal difference. Both teams are on nine points apiece.

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