Chennaiyin FC bulldoze Blasters

The result, courtesy John Stiven Mendoza’s second hat-trick in the tournament, pushed them two spots up to sixth on 13 points, three adrift of NorthEast United FC in fourth, and thereby gave them some much needed breathing space in the tight race for a semifinal spot.

In what can be construed as a revelation of character of the highest-order, Chennaiyin FC, in a performance far removed from any of their recent travails, thrashed Kerala Blasters 4-1 in the Indian Super League here on Saturday.

The result, courtesy John Stiven Mendoza’s second hat-trick in the tournament, pushed them two spots up to sixth on 13 points, three adrift of NorthEast United FC in fourth, and thereby gave them some much needed breathing space in the tight race for a semifinal spot.

The home side, yet again, made five changes. Elano was relegated to the bunch even as the other talisman in Mendoza got to start. Also, there were opportunities for Edel Apoula in goal, Bruno Pelissari, Jeje Lalpeklua and Bernard Mendy.

The team, perhaps in a coincidence, looked far more fluent than it had in Elano’s presence. The attacks weren’t always as direct as they had been in the past. The game was stretched as Dhanachandra Singh and Pelissari on the left and Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Thoi Singh on the right were constant threats. Jeje, playing just off Mendoza in a withdrawn role, seemed the ideal foil.

Kerala in fact didn’t see any of the ball for much of the initial period. The lead came as early as the third minute when Dhanachandra fired in a first-time volley from the left into the far corner. A teasing cross from the left and an excellent through ball to Jeje were Pelissari’s ways of a making his quality known in only his second start in ten games.

On 16 minutes, the lead was doubled when an inch-perfect long ball by Dhanachandra from the left of the defence found Mendoza, who first controlled the ball, drew the ‘keeper forward and then curled a left footer in.

The closest the visitors came was three minutes later when Pulga, let through without being closed down, forced Edel into making a smart save at the near post.

Minutes before the break, Chennaiyin could have gone three ahead when a wonderfully flighted ball by Alessandro Potenza found Jeje, who after a neat exchange with Harmanjot Khabra rolled the ball across. But it found nobody.

The second half started under a heavy downpour and Chennaiyin were happy to sit back and hit on the counter. Two such blistering moves saw Jeje and Mendoza in a direct contest with the Blasters’ defenders. But neither resulted in a goal.

In the 70th minute, when Sandesh Jinghan sent a free header from a set piece over the crossbar, the Blasters let go of the last opportunity to make a match out of it.

The home side shut the contest down with a two-goal burst in as many minutes. In the 80th Mendoza scored via a deflected shot after trading passes with Thoi. A minute later, a quickly taken free kick by Khabra looped above the defenders into the path of Colombian to complete his hat-trick.

Antonio German’s deflected goal right at the end was his team’s only consolation.

>Matchcentre

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