Chennai: Chennaiyin FC were back in the reckoning for a place in the semi-finals of the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament after registering a 2-0 victory over FC Pune City at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.
Riding on goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua (44th minute) and Davide Succi (51st minute) in either half, the defending champions clinched their first win in six matches.
Chennaiyin FC had wretched form in the last five matches but they put their woes behind to climb up the ladder. From seventh, Chennaiyin FC are now in fifth spot with 13 points from 10 matches and are only outside the top four due to an inferior goal difference.
Pune City will be concerned about their chances of qualification for semi-finals. The team coached by former ISL champion Antonio Habas is now placed sixth, although they are only a point behind the defending champions.
In desperate need for a win to keep their chances alive, Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi made five changes to his starting line-up as he introduced players like Eder Monteiro, Hans Mulder, Davide Succi and Manuele Blasi to the starting line-up while Karanjit Singh was preferred as goalkeeper.
On the other hand, Habas made just one change by opting for Raju Yumnam in place Rahul Bheke.
Pune City started well but were unfortunate as Anibal Zurdo’s free-kick missed the target by a whisker and Lenny Rodrigues made a fine run on the right but his final attempt lacked power and direction, despite being in a good position.
For the hosts, Brazil’s Raphael Augusto brilliantly intercepted a pass from Jonatan Lucca in the 21st minute, but while running down the flank, he ended with a disappointing right-footer.
Succi also had a shot on goal but his effort was wayward in the 24th minute.
Chennaiyin FC drew first blood just before half-time through Jeje. Bernard Mendy started the move by playing the ball for Raphael in the middle. The Brazilian found Hans Mulder whose cross for Succi, got a touch before reaching Jeje and the highest Indian goal-scorer in the ISL did the rest by beating Pune goalkeeper Edel Bete with a smart header from close.
Bete and Pune were down again early in the second session. In the 51st minute, Succi rose high to head a brilliant cross from Raphael and beat both his marker, Eduardo Ferreira and a leaping goalkeeper Edel Bete.
Pune City’s valiant attempts of fighting their way back failed in front of Chennaiyin FC’s solid defence as the game ended in favour of the home team.