Chennai’s superstar Rajinikanth was there. The Big B was there. Junior Bachchan was pumped and a big crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium went home with a smile on their face as Chennaiyin FC began their home campaign with a 2-1 win over the Kerala Blasters.
Elano opened the scoring from the spot before Iain Hume equalized for Kerala.
But the day truly belonged to Frenchman, Bernard Mendy, whose spectacular overhead kick proved to be the eventual winner.
The game started off briskly. Balwant Singh had an early chance to increase his tally, but he put his header wide, after good work by Abhishek Das down the right flank. Kerala responded well though, with shots from Avinabo Bag and Iain Hume. Just when it looked like the Blasters were in the ascendancy, they conceded a penalty. More good work from Abhishek down the right flank drew an unruly challenge from Gurwinder Singh, and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Elano calmly slotted his spot kick past David James to give Chennai an early lead.
Chennai had a few chances to double that lead soon after, the most notable being Elano’s shot that went must over David James’s crossbar. Kerala then had a golden chance which fell to CS Sabeeth, but he hit the post, and it led to a scramble in the six-yard area, before the ball was eventually grabbed by Gennaro Bracigliano.
An intelligent header from Elano then saw Colombian striker John Mendoza through on goal, and he went down in the box after being one-on-one with David James, but the referee booked the Chennai man for simulation. Mendoza had a left-footed effort soon after, which was awkwardly parried away by David James.
The score remained 1-0 at the break, and Chennai would have entered the dressing rooms the happier.
But immediately after the restart, Kerala forced a corner, from which Hume rifled in the equalizer from close range after a scramble in the penalty area. Again it looked as though Kerala would take control as Chennai looked bereft of ideas.
Kerala sensed the kill and brought on Michael Chopra as they went after Chennai.
But that is when the game changed in Chennai’s favour. Elano whipped a free kick into the area, and Kerala couldn’t clear it far enough, Bernard Mendy stepped up with a spectacular overhead kick that took James in the Kerala goal by surprise. Chennai then put themselves under needless pressure, as Bracigliano handled a back pass from Mikael Silvestre. The resulting indirect free-kick did not amount to much for Kerala as they desperatey went in search of a second equalizer.
They did create a couple of chances late on, but Chopra shot high and Sabeeth put his header wide. They even threw David James forward from late corners, but Chennai’s defense led by the brilliant Mendy and the reliable Silvestre stood firm.
Kerala threw everything they had at Chennai in injury time but it was to be of no avail as a defensive team effort from Chennai killed the game off.
Chennai, with this win, make it two from two and keep pace with leaders Atletico de Kolkata.