Chennai: Chennaiyin FC face the daunting task of overturning a formidable 0-3 deficit in the second leg of the semi-final play-off against Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) here Tuesday.
After a top-of-the-table finish in the group stage Chennaiyin were strengthened with the addition of former Italian international Alessandro Nesta. Their leading scorer Elano Blumer also returned from injury to further bolster the team.
But inspite of the presence of big names they surprisingly crashed to a heavy defeat in the first leg of the double-legged last four stage and are staring at imminent elimination unless they improve their performance markedly.
The big margin of defeat has dented the confidence of Marco Materazzi’s team but they will draw comfort from an impressive record at home.
They have only lost one out of the seven home matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the group stage of the competition and will be backed by a vociferous home crowd, who have lent their support in large numbers earlier.
Coach Materazzi is aware of the task that lies ahead of them and reflected on the lost chances in the first leg.
“I think we had chances in the first 20 minutes at 0-0. Then Kerala Blasters started playing well,” he said in a release Monday. The former defender said his team needed to muster some much needed self belief to overturn the deficit.
“It is a good result for Kerala and we have a lot to do, especially because the third goal in the end makes it even more difficult for us. But it is important to believe in ourselves and try to fight back,” said the Italian.
“Nothing is impossible in football, but it will be important not to concede in Chennai. The first half will be very important and we will have to take our chances.”
Much of it will depend on Brazilian striker Elano, the tournament’s top-scorer and his link-up play with India international forward Jeje Lalpekhlua.
“Of course, it’s football, so anything can happen. We have a strong squad and we can beat Kerala in the next match,” Lalpekhlua said.
But his team must find a way to beat seasoned goalkeeper Sanip Nandy who was in superb form in the first leg to deny Chennai on several occasions.