Chennaiyin FC went temporarily to the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) standings after a 1-0 win over FC Pune City at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on Saturday night. In what was a dramatic game which saw Rene Mihelic miss a penalty, Gregory Nelson scored the winner for the South Indian side in the 83rd minute.
Chennaiyin FC went into the game with three changes from their previous game against Delhi Dynamos. Henrique Sereno, Thoi Singh and Bikramjit Singh came into the team with Rene Mihelic continuing to be preferred over Raphael Augusto.
FC Pune City opted to deploy Adil Khan, who has impressed in midfield so far, at right-back while Rohit Kumar came into the midfield. Diego Carlos came into the side to replace the suspended Marcelinho.
The home team almost forced an early chance when Bikramjit sent in a long ball for Jeje to latch on to. However, Adil Khan got back to block his shot for a corner.
At the other end, Emiliano Alfaro created two lovely openings for Carlos and Ashique Kuruniyan but both went begging. Carlos was sent clear but Karanjit's outstretched leg foiled him while Ashique could only prod his delightful ball from the left agonisingly wide.
In the 12th minute, Jonatan Lucca picked out Diego Carlos free on the left wing. He entered the area and his curling shot crashed against the crossbar as the Chennaiyin defence looked rattled.
Though it was all Pune, Chennaiyin were literally gifted a penalty in the 25th minute when Jeje sent Nelson through into the Pune penalty box. Unfortunately for the home team, Mihelic's tame grounder was palmed away by Vishal Kaith.
Pune kept on attacking, with Diego Carlos enjoying a good run down the left wing. He forced Karanjit into a save and later on forced Sereno into a block after surging into the area. But a goal eluded him as both teams went into the break level. Dhanpal Ganesh was lucky not to have seen a red card for his constant fouls.
The second half started on a sour note for Pune City as Marcos Tebar went down with what looked like a groin injury and Baljit Sahni was sent on instead. He slotted in at right-back while Adil Khan moved into midfield.
The game turned scrappy towards the hour mark with both teams squandering possession far too cheaply.
The home team opted to take out the ineffective Rene Mihelic for Raphael Augusto as they searched for a bit of inspiration in attack. Pune City responded by bringing on Robertino Pugliara for Lucca.
Chennaiyin did get on the ball a bit more and Gregory Nelson almost forced a goal when he dribbled past Sahil Panwar into the box but saw his cutback booted away by an alert Rafael Lopez.
Jerry Lalrinzuala almost gifted Pune a winner in the 80th minute with a sloppy backpass that Diego Carlos almost latched on to. Karanjit's alert intervention saved the left-back's blushes.
At the other end, Raphael Augusto made Pune rue that miss by playing Gregory Nelson into the box down the right side. The winger opened up space for him with a clever dummy and found the back of the net with a composed grounder to send the home crowd into raptures.
Though the Stallions tried their best to mount a comeback and score the equaliser, the Marina Machans held on to their lead to go temporarily top of the table.