With not even the wooden spoon up for grabs, last year's finalists Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa played out a nine game thriller in a no-holds-barred game at the Fatorda. Here are seven takeaways from the inconsequential match between the table paupers.
ISL fans get their money's worth.
With a combined 41 goals shipped by the two teams before the game, any self-respecting ISL fan wouldn't dare miss this match. Like the third place matches of World Cups, these dead rubbers are a treat to watch. With absolutely nothing to play for, the match turned up and down and finished sensationally – giving the watcher an absolute spectacle to watch. My condolences to those who missed the match.
Team line-ups making a statement.
Both teams made a slew of changes as expected. FC Goa had six foreign players in their starting eleven, while on the other hand, Marco Materazzi decided to give his young Indians a run with only three foreigners starting for Chennaiyin FC. Both managers trying to vindicate their choices made at the beginning of the season. Chennaiyin had invested in five Indian youngsters and FC Goa retained five of their foreign internationals.
Jerry, the deadball specialist
The game kept up to its promise as early as the fourth minute when Jerry Lalrinzuala found the net with his Beckhamesque free-kick from just outside the penalty box. The climb in the ball just perfect to beat the jumping wall and then the dip and the curl into the top corner. Perfect. That this was the first set piece that Jerry took this season begs the question why he was never given a chance to do that before. Especially when Chennaiyin were really struggling with set piece delivery in the absence of Elano Blumer.
Both teams' defence went missing
For each of the nine goals, the defence on either side was caught short. Anurag Thapa was brought down needlessly for Chennaiyin's first, while the centrebacks were out of position for Goa's first goal. Goan defence again gave Anurag Thapa ample time to shoot the second and conceded an own goal, while Harmanjyot Khabra's brain fade gave Goa's second on a platter.
Chennaiyin's third came when Dudu, who is not exactly young, out running the centrebacks and rounding the goalkeeper. Goa's third came after a defensive mix up between Eder Monteiro and Jerry let the persevering Rafael Coelho to shoot. Karanjit saved once but the rebound fell to Sahil Tavora neatly to tap in.
Goa's fourth and first goal were similar as Rafael Coelho collected his second goal with a cool finish leaving the Chennaiyin defence far behind. Then came Raju Gaikwad's brain fade came in the 87th minute for Chennaiyin to draw level with a penalty.
And the icing on the cake came Courtesy Sahil Tavora as the Chennaiyin defence retreated again in the dying minutes to concede the winning goal. Chennaiyin, in spite of having better chances contrived to lose.
At the end of the game both teams together gave away 50 goals out of the 131 goals scored in this ISL. They were surely the Santa Claus of this season.
Last of Harmanjyot Khabra, Thoi Singh and Abhishek Das?
The fact that these three have barely featured for Chennaiyin in ISL 2016 (This was Abhishek's first appearance this season) was very much proven right. The indiscipline of Khabra came out last season with two red cards. And yet again he conceded a penalty trying to challenge from the back.
Thoi in his inimitable style was full of energy. He would win the ball and then spray a pass without thinking in the next second. This happened five times within the first 45 minutes.
Abhishek Das was simply not up to the task of filling Mehrajuddin Wadoo's shoes. He must have challenged Tavora for the last goal but switched off. His first full game also meant he had cramps. All in all a game to forget for him.
It would be a surprise if these three continue in the rolls of Chennaiyin next year.
Thrice they went down by a goal, thrice they came back to equalise. The third one especially highlighted the team's perseverance to end the winless run at home against Chennaiyin. Twice they took the lead, the last time in dying minutes. While Goa's backline contrived to produce a horror show, the frontline salvaged the day for them.
For the first time since the first season, we saw a Chennaiyin free of shackles and being only attack-minded in the first half. Their return of three goals was much less considering the number of clear cut chances they created. Daniel Lalhlimpuia in particular shined with his continued display of vision and repertoire of skills. His backheel flick for Dudu, who denied by the post, in the 10th minute reminded particularly of Mesut Ozil.
Anurag Thapa also put in a solid shift and should have got on to the scoresheet but for the post. The manager seemed proven right for his trust in these youngsters who already show brilliant understanding between them.
While not much can be taken seriously in a no pressure inconsequential match, the promise of youngsters was a huge takeaway for Chennaiyin. For Goa, the fact that they finally won over Chennaiyin at home bodes well to the morale of the team that was already down and out.