Pune: A clinical performance from Chennaiyin FC saw them thrash defending champions Atletico de Kolkata 3-0 in the first leg semifinal of the Indian Super League, here on Saturday.
Bruno Pelissari (39th minute), India international Jeje Lalpeklhua (57th minute) and goal-machine Stiven Mendoza (68th minute) were on target as ATK's defenders had a forgettable day in office.
Chennaiyin are also the first team in the two editions of ISL, who have won five straight matches. This one was even more special as their talismanic Brazilian playmaker Elano Blummer missed the game.
The comprehensive victory by Chennaiyin means that Sourav Ganguly co-owned outfit will have to win by a 4-goal margin to enter the title round. Least they could do is to at least win by three clear goals to take the match into the extra-time.
In fact, Chennaiyin FC almost did the improbable last season, when they came back after a 0-3 first leg defeat to take a 3-0 lead against Kerala Blasters only to concede a last-minute goal in extra-time.
On the day, playing their 'home match' away from Chennai (rescheduling due to recent floods), Marco Materazzi's boys were flawless on the pitch controlling the proceedings from the start.
It also helped that ATK's India internationals -- right-back Rino Anto and centre-back Arnab Mondal made things easier for the opposition showing distinct lack of communication. Every time, they left their guards, Mendoza along with Jeje threatened to score.
Chennaiyin's opening goal was scored in the 39th minute when Bruno Pellisari struck from around 30 yards with a direct free-kick. It was a booming right-footer, that evaded a two-man wall and swerved enough to beat an outstretched ATK goalie Amrinder Singh as the winners went into break leading 1-0.
The change of ends saw Chennaiyin step up their game a notch further.
In the 57th minute, an error of judgment from ATK's back-four cost them dearly. Mendoza was freed on the wide left as he beat his marker Anto with sheer pace and then also outwitted a surging Amrinder. Knowing that scoring from the angle will be difficult, Mendoza released a pull-back for Jeje, who slotted with an assured angled right-footer.
In the 68th minute, it was Jeje's turn to return the favour for Mendoza as they played a quick one-two before the latter placed it past Amrinder to score his 12th goal in the tournament.
He is now two goals clear of Iain Hume and looks hot favourite for the 'Golden Boot' award.
(With inputs from Agencies)