New Delhi: Former France and Chelsea star Florent Malouda scored twice, inspiring Delhi Dynamos to a 4-1 drubbing of defending champions Chennaiyin FC in an Indian Super League football match here today.
36-year-old Malouda, leading the Delhi side, continued his impressive performance as he struck the home side's second and the fourth goal in the 25th and 85th minutes respectively while he made the assists in the other goals scored by Richard Gadze (15th) and Kean Lewis (54th) in front of 15,000-odd crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. It was also the first time Malouda scored this season.
Chennaiyin captain Bernard Mendy scored his side's lone goal in the 37th minute.
With the win, their third on the trot and fourth overall, Delhi now have 16 points from nine matches and they dislodged Mumbai City FC (15 points from nine matches) from the top spot to strengthen their chances for a last four berth.
Delhi had also beaten Chennaiyin 3-1 in the first leg in Chennai on October 6.
For Chennaiyin, whose coach Marco Materazzi made as many five changes from their last match playing eleven, this was their second loss in the tournament and first in an away match this season. They seemed to miss the inspiring presence of former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise at the deep defence. Riise, who was recovering from an injury, came in the 83rd minute but by that time, the game was as good as over.
After today's loss, Chennaiyin are at sixth in the table with 10 points from eight matches.
Playing their fifth home match, the Gianluca Zambrotta-coached Delhi side were clearly the better side with a lot more possession, distribution of the ball with neat passing while Chennaiyin played aimlessly for most part of the match.
In the second half, they played with more purpose and attacking intent after the introduction of India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua but failed to score.
Delhi suffered a jolt as early as the fourth minute as right stopper Chinglensana Singh had to be replaced by LalchhawnKima due to injury. First choice Chinglensana's injury did not make any difference as the back four of Ruben Rocha, Anas Edathodika, Souvik Chakrabarti and LalchhawnKima did a good job all through the match.
Malouda continued with his impressive form and he and striker Richard Gadze formed a dangerous pair, making several forays into the opposition box. Only winger Marcelino, a lynchpin for Delhi attack and running for the Golden Boot with five goals so far, was quiet today except for a few assists.
Malouda played the role of assist in Delhi's first goal in the 15th minute as he won the ball from Chennaiyin's Siam Hanghal. The former France and Chelsea midfielder made his way towards the Chennaiyin box and unleashed a right footer. Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh parried it away but there was Gadze to smash the ball on the rebound into the open net.
Ten minutes later, it was the turn of Malouda to make it 2-0 for Delhi and this time Gadze was the supplier. Malouda sent a low and curling left-footer which beat a diving Chennaiyin goalkeeper.
With a 2-0 lead, it seemed that Delhi would take total control of the match and add more misery to Chennaiyin but the visitors struck back in the 37th minute with the hardworking Bernard Mendy pulling one back for his side. The Chennaiyin captain and former France international dodged past two Delhi defenders in a solo run and unleashed a powerful right footer from the top of the box which gave no chance to a diving goalkeeper, Antonio Doblas.
Chennaiyin head coach Marco Materazzi brought in striker Jeje Lalpekhlua at the start of the second half in place of Hanghal and the visiting side seemed to be attacking with purpose but it was Delhi who scored in the 54th minute with captain Malouda in the thick of things again. From a corner rebound, Malouda squared the ball at the edge of box for Kean Lewis whose right-footed low grounder curled around a diving goalkeeper before crashing into the net.
The visiting side made some desperate efforts to find the Delhi net but could not create the chances in the second half except for a golden chance handed to Jeje who shot over in the 70th minute.
Five minutes before the final whistle, Malouda took the match from Chennaiyin's reach as he headed into the net by jumping over his marker to connect a Marcelinho corner from the left.