The overseas recruit scored the only goal of the match.
A weakened, almost second-string Chennaiyin FC squad managed to put it across Mumbai City FC 1-0 and finish second on the Hero Indian Super League points table.
Rene Mihelic’s 67th-minute penalty was the difference between the two sides as Chennaiyin FC showed great desire to finish their league engagements on a high at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, on Saturday.
Chennaiyin FC finished the league stage with 32 points, eight less than toppers Bengaluru FC, but comfortably ahead of FC Pune City and either one from Jamshedpur FC or FC Goa who confirm their qualification spot on Sunday.
Mumbai City FC finished seventh as Alexandre Guimaraes’ aim of finishing at least among the top six came to an end.
The win will please Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory. He made eight changes to his team, bringing in some players who didn’t have enough minutes under their belt in the league yet managed to as play as well as those they had replaced. Goalkeeper Pawan Kumar and Fulganco Cardozo were playing for the first time, while Germanpreet Singh, Dhanachandra Singh, Jaime Gavilan, Thoi Singh, Jude Nworuh and Mohammed Rafi are not regulars.
Nothing mattered in the end as Chennaiyin FC dominated and grabbed full points, thanks to Mihelic’s penalty. Nobody was in doubt about the penalty after Mehrajuddin Wadoo brought down Jaime Gavilan with a rash challenge and the referee pointed to the spot.
Mihelic stepped up to take the spot-kick and converted, despite goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya getting a hand to it.
Mumbai City FC were never really in the game and seemed to have the thrust only when Guimaraes made a double substitution just after the hour mark, introducing Davinder Singh and Cameroonian midfielder Achille Emana.
Emana was impressive as always and came close to securing his team the equaliser. His bullet free-kick was collected on the second attempt by goalkeeper Pawan Kumar and also dispossessed in the nick of time by the keeper. Mumbai did score in stoppage time but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for offside, much to the displeasure of the visitors.
For Chennaiyin, it was a case of so near yet so far in first 45 minutes when they did everything right, except score. After being cagey in the first quarter, Chennaiyin FC opened up. They should have scored in the 37th minute but somehow never did. Captain Gavilan pressed forward with the ball, cut inside on his left and then appealed for a penalty. There was still a chance as Raju Gaikwad’s clearance fell at the feet of Jude Nworuh, whose shot from close range hit the keeper, then struck the post before being cleared to safety.