FC Goa have suffered their third straight defeat in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2016, after Chennaiyin FC pulled off a comfortable 2-0 win on Thursday night, in a rematch of last year's ISL final. Playing at their Marine Arena home, defending champions Chennaiyin put together a clinical performance to overcome Goa. Manager Marco Materazzi rung in four changes to his side, after having fielded pretty much the same XI in the first two games. Here's a look at how these changes affected the match.
Bernard Mendy was dropped to the bench and in came 28-year-old Brazilian Eli Sabia at centre-back; Nallapan Mohanraj was mercifully replaced by the promising Jerry Lalrinzuala at left back; Karanjit Singh started between the sticks, replacing the error-prone Duwayne Kerr. These three changes clearly made a huge difference. A gaffe in the second minute resulting from a miscommunication between Karanjit and Eli Sabia didn't cost them, and they were disciplined thereafter.
Karanjit was immense in goal, saving all four shots on target and standing tall to deal with plenty of crosses time and again. "It was a game of few chances. Chennaiyin scored their goals with their two shots on target, we didn't," said FC Goa coach Zico after the game.
Indeed, Materazzi manager must be satisfied with Karanjit for doing his job when the need arose. But the custodian was helped by the presence of Sabia in defence. The Brazilian had FC Goa's target-man Reinaldo Oliveira on a tight leash throughout the match. Except for the second minute miscommunication with Karanjit, he was impeccable. He kept up with Reinaldo, who was sent through in the 38th minute, and was again at hand to block his countryman's shot in the 73rd minute. Chennaiyin FC would be very pleased with Sabia's debut performance.
Jerry Lalrinzuala, an AIFF elite academy product, was a pleasant surprise for the Chennaiyin fans. Jerry had the knowledgable crowd oohing as early as the sixth minute with a dangerous cross from the left. He showcased his attacking intent again three minutes later, with another searching cross. Moreover, it was not all attack, as in the 25th minute, he held off a more physically built Rafael Coelho Luiz admirably and earned his side a goal kick. He deservingly took home the 'emerging player of the match' award, and in him Materazzi really does seem to have a rare diamond that can be polished under the tutelage of John Arne Riise.
Steel in Midfield:
Karanjit Singh between the sticks meant there was an additional slot for a foreign player. After the last game, Firstpost wrote that Raphael Augusto was constrained in a two-man central midfield and needs a holding partner rather than the marauding Hans Mulder.
Marco Materazzi clearly had similar ideas, as he brought in Manuele Blasi to screen the defence, thus giving Augusto a free reign. The move proved to be a game changer, with Augusto combining brilliantly with Jayesh Rane first, and then with David Succi, to string some pleasing passes together. It took a neat stepover and a slick pass from him to give Hans Mulder the opportunity to score the opening goal. Mulder, to his credit, placed the shot with precision at the far corner to help Chennaiyin take the lead.
Though there was an element of fortune involved in Chennaiyin's second goal, it was a testimony to their team effort. Augusto was again the orchestrator as he received the pass from Mehrajuddin Wadoo and brought in Baljit Sahni into the play. Wadoo, who passed and made a run towards the goal, received a well-timed pass from Sahni to unleash the shot from just outside the penalty box. His shot took a deflection of Rafael Dumas, leaving the Goan custodian with no chance.
However, it's a cause for worry that Augusto limped off in the 85th minute. Chennaiyin fans will be hoping that their midfield maestro is up and running in time for their next match in seven days' time.
Credit goes to to manager Marco Materazzi for ringing in four changes. He identified that he had to change his formation and was bold enough to drop both Dudu Omagbemi and Jeje Lalpekhlua, who have claimed a goal and three assists between them in two matches.
Responding to a question from Firstpost on whether we can see Augusto as a playmaker more often, Materazzi replied, "From game to game, I will try to adapt and see if I make the right decisions."
It's this flexibility and willingness to choose his playing XI before every match that makes him a dangerous manager, who will stop at nothing to get the win for the noisy Chennaiyin fans.