Kochi: Super-sub Bruno Pelissari produced a late winner as Chennaiyin FC became the first team to confirm a semi-final spot in the Indian Super League with a 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters here on Sunday.The wily Brazilian charged through the middle in an 87th-minute counter, skipped a reluctant Gurwinder Singh and curled his left-footer majestically into the far corner of Sandip Nandy’s goal to end Kerala’s four-match unbeaten run at home.
Chennaiyin have 22 points and extended their lead over the fifth placed Delhi Dynamos to nine points. With the other teams in the top five left to play each other in the remaining fixtures, Chennaiyin will qualify even if they lose their next two matches by slender margins.It was a tactical masterplan by Chennaiyin’s Italian manager Marco Materazzi while his adventurous opposite number David James, who started in the Kerala goal, but was subbed out in the 19th minute after straining his groin.
James had managed to complete 90 minutes in Goa three days ago, but on the day he substituted himself with Sandip Nandy.The India no. 2 custodian made an acrobatic save in added time of the first half to prevent a charging Balwant Singh from getting first to a long ball from Djemba Djemba. However, he was frozen in his steps as Pelissari took the winning shot in the dying moments.
The Brazilian had replaced Spaniard Cristian Hidalgo in the 73rd minute.Blasters’ talisman Iain Hume made an uncharacteristic error in the early moments of the second half when he sliced his shot tamely wide off the far post after being released by Kerala striker C.S. Sabeeth. In the first half, Kerala had the most telling moment when Milagres Gonsalves squared for Hume in the 10th minute. The Canadian failed to connect his attempted shot and the Blasters seldom came that close in the period.