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Chennaiyin solves the Atletico puzzle

Chennaiyin FC wiped off negative memories against Atletico de Kolkata over two ISL editions, notching up its first victory in five matches. Knitting moves and attacking at blistering pace, the blue brigade struck three stunning goals in the first-leg of the second semifinal at the Balewadi stadium, Pune, on Saturday.

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

Chennaiyin’s win against Atletico, which came after two losses this season and two draws in the previous one, was watched by nearly 8000 fans.

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

The flow was missing right through the first half, with both sides vying for the ball and not allowing the rival to have possession.

Habas kept leaping out of the dug-out to the touchline, drawing the referee’s attention to Chennaiyin’s fouls. ATK, reputed for physical play, got a taste of its own medicine.

Amrinder charged out of goal to collect a cross, then watched a fierce right-footer from Pelissari sail over the crossbar. Playing at their adopted home venue, it was the Men In Blue’s first crack at the goal.

Fouls kept piling up at both ends as tempers frayed. Rino Anto tripped Mendoza to concede a free kick, but the attempt by Pelissari was easily collected by Amrinder. Pelissari then scored off a direct free-kick, leaping in joy on finding the ball doing his bidding by snaking in the air and dipping into the corner off a right-footed shot. Amrinder spotted the devil in the free-kick, was late to react and though he leapt frantically to his right, he ended up hearing the ball rattle the net. Chennaiyin was ahead in the 38th minute.

ATK returned in the second half without playmaker Borja Fernandez, replaced due to a strained hamstring. Chennaiyin widened the gap through a clinical Jeje finish in the 57th minute.

Bete started the move with a long throw to the centreline before Pelissari put Mendoza on with a long ball into free space.

The result: Chennaiyin FC 3 (Pelissari, Jeje, Mendoza) bt Atletico de Kolkata 0.

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