In one of the most exhilarating and crucial games in Hero Indian Super League, Kerala Blasters completed the rout of Chennaiyin FC in the second-leg semifinal clash at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. In the game that saw fortunes fluctuating for 120 minutes, Kerala had the last laugh with a mind-boggling solo run from the untiring Stephen Pearson, who finished his job by taking a superb strike that found the left bottom corner of the goal. The final whistle came three minutes later and the end signaled the doom for Chennaiyin FC while KB roared in triumph. Playing courageously for most part, Chennai succeeded in wiping off the first-leg 0-3 deficit with efforts from Silvestre, an own goal, and a 90th minute goal from Jeje. Despite taking the match into extra time, Chennai failed. Marco Materazzi made an appearance for Chennai but he will be better remembered for the missed penalty and collecting a red card, though the Italian veteran provided a great assist through a floating free-kick, which helped Silvestre and Chennai open their score against the visitors from God’s Own Country.
Before the game, Chennaiyin had known the enormity of the task they faced. Player-coach Marco Materazzi made four changes in starting line-up and brought himself on as well. Materazzi probably wanted to confuse Kerala Blasters with an altogether unpredictable formation. Shilton Paul took the charge of goalkeeping in place of Gennaro Bracigliano and Gouramangi Singh, Jean-Eudes Maurice and Materazzi himself taking the places of Denson Devadas, Elano and Balwant Singh. In the only change, KB brought Sandesh Jhingan for Nirmal Chettri. At the kick-off, the hosts began with the attack straight away. Bernard Mendy sent a low cross in the opening minutes but KB defnders blocked it. KB earned a yellow card, when Jamie McAllister was booked for taking a long time to take the corner. It was a super effort by KB but Michael Chopra’s header was nicely cleared by Harmanjot Khabra. Iain Hume went to the goal-mouth but Nesta prevented him from taking the shot. In 12th minute, Materazzi’s header from a long throw by Dhana posed a danger for KB but somehow the defenders cleared it. In another attempt, Chennai’s Maurice beat the off-side trap but his strike missed the target. In 15th minute, Mendy won a corner but that too was cleared by KB defenders. In 19th minute, Materazzi got a nice cross from Mendy and he relayed the ball to Jeje, whose superb strike was saved by the diving KB goalkeeper. In 23rd minute, Abhisek Das came for the injured Dhana. KB too attacked in the 26th minute but the Chennai goalkeeper came up and denied Iain Hume from shooting the ball in. KB were down to 10-men in 28th minute, when James McAllister deliberately brought down Mendy and earned a red card. In 32nd minute, Mendy’s cross from the right whizzed past the KB goalmouth but there was no one to tap it in. The next few minutes became a tale of attacks and counter-attacks from both sides but the targets remained elusive. In 42nd minute, Chennai got their first goal, when Silvestre managed to head one in from a nice Materazzi free-kick and the teams went for the break at 1-0 in favor of Chennai.
Three minutes into the second half, Chennai earned a penalty as Jhingan wrongly obstructed Maurice in the box. But to their biggest misfortune of the day, Materazzi spilled the certain chance. In the 57th minute, Elano Blumer came in place of Nesta, who looked injured. Gurwinder Singh earned a yellow for kicking Mendy but the ensuing free-kick couldn’t get into the goal. Chennai brought Bruno Pelissari for Djemba-Djemba in 75th minute and his arrival also brought the second goal for Chennai. Pelissari’s long ball into the box confused Jhingan, who thought Nandy was in the goal and his chested touch rolled into the goal. KB immediately replaced Nandy with Luis Barreto. In 81st minute, a Pelissari strike was parried away by Baretto. Pelissari missed another chance in 85th minute after he picked up the pass from Das and despite dodging a defender, missed the target. At the stroke of the 90th minute, Mendy engineered a great goal for Chennai after his low cross was shouldered in by Jeje and the stadium came alive as the aggregate now stood at 3-3. Nothing happened in the 8 minutes of added injury time and the match sailed into two 15-minute halves of extra-time.
Chennai began the first half with fierce attack on the KB goal but Baretto was solid. He prevented Maurice in the 96th minute and KB came up with a counter in the next minute but Pearson’s header went straight to Shilton. In the next 5 minutes, Pelissari and Materazzi missed easy chances by hitting above the bar. Both teams were down to 10-men, when Materazzi earned his second Yellow card and had to leave in the 104th minute. The teams changed sides after the first half but Chennai continued with the attack in trying to get an upper hand. While they couldn’t succeed, KB came up with a brilliant goal from Pearson in the 117th minute. He collected Jhingan’s pass and charged inside the box on a solo run and then produced a classic curler that beat Shilton Paul all ends up. Chennai was aghast at the sudden turn of events and though tried and tried, the match ended with Kerala cornering the glory.
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