ISL semi-finals: Chennaiyin hammer ATK

Chennaiyin FC wiped off negative memories against Atletico de Kolkata over two ISL editions, notching their first victory in five matches against the defending champions. Knitting moves and attacking at blistering pace, the blue shirts struck three stunning goals in the first leg semi-final at the Balewadi stadium.

Bruno Pelissari (L), Jeje Lalpekhlua (C) and John Steven Mendoza all got on the scoresheet for Chennaiyin FC.   -  ISL SPORTZPICS

Chennaiyin FC wiped off negative memories against Atletico de Kolkata over two ISL editions, notching their first victory in five matches against the defending champions. Knitting moves and attacking at blistering pace, the blue shirts struck three stunning goals in the first leg semi-final at the Balewadi stadium.

Bruno Pelissari’s direct free-kick strike was followed by a goal from Indian striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Golden Boot leader Stiven Mendoza tapped in the third, reading the move from Jeje and finishing with a flourish.

The 3-0 win for Chennaiyin comes after two losses this season against ATK, and two draws last season. ATK need a similar performance to wipe off the deficit to confirm a place in the final for a second time. Marco Materaazi can work on confidence-building, gained after an aggressive display at a neutral venue, cheered by 7965 fans.

Jeje underlined his emergence as one of India’s most exciting strikers with a goal off an exquisite pass from goal-machine Mendoza, trapping and picking his spot with a calm right-footed tap. The Indian then returned the compliment with an even better pass, hooking the ball over the defender for his teammate from Colombia to slide the ball home. ATK coach Antonio Habas now has a mountain to climb.

The flow was missing right through the first half, with both sides challenging for the ball, not allowing their opponents time to dominate possession. Corner kicks and free-kicks kept the custodians at both ends busy. Amrinder under the ATK bar had more work to do, keeping out shots from various angles as the opponents went on the offensive. Bete, wearing the golden armband signifying his status as the best goalkeeper, was watchful.

Habas kept leaping out of the dugout to the sideline, drawing the referee’s attention to Chennaiyin fouls. ATK, reputed for their physical play, were getting a taste of their own medicine.

Nerves were heading towards break point, as fouls kept piling up at both ends. Rino Anto tripped Mendoza at the cost of a free-kick, but the attempt by Pellisari was collected by Amrinder. Ball-players on the pitch were denied breathing time to control the ball and bring their skills into play.

Pelissari, a product from Paranaense academy in Brazil, scored with a blast. Players live for such magical moments, the ball was fired with a right-footed shot and curled low into the left corner. Amrinder spotted the devil in the free-kick a touch too late, leaping frantically to his right but ended up hearing the ball rattle the net. Chennaiyin were ahead in the 38th minute. The 22-year-old has been busy for Chennaiyin, eight shots at goal, one assist and one strike. This was his second goal of the competition and certainly a special one.

ATK returned in the second half without playmaker Borja Fernandez, replaced due to a strained hamstring. The Spaniard is one of celebrated foreigners in this event.

Chennaiyin widened the gap with a clinical Jeje finish in the 57th minute. Bete started the move with a long throw to the centreline. Pelissari put Mendoza on the job with a long ball into free space. With two defenders on the line, he unselfishly passed it to Jeje who made sure he made no mistake from close-range.

The roles were reversed ten minutes later as Jeje turned provider for Mendoza with a delighful pass which the forward gleefully accepted before beating Amrinder at his near post.

The second leg will played at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on December 16.

>Chennaiyin FC 3-0 Atletico de Kolkata

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