Goa: Chennaiyin FC have established themselves as one of the top teams in this season's Indian Super League (ISL) campaign after finishing second on the table behind leaders Bengaluru FC with 32 points. But the road now only gets tougher for the Super Machans, having qualified for the semi-finals.
However, the dry spell of goals from their star striker Jeje Lalpekhlua has slowly become a matter of concern for the former title holders.
After the departures of star strikers Elano Blumer, Steven Mendoza and Dudu Omagbemi, the Mizoram striker has been trusted by coach John Gregory to lead the frontline in this edition of ISL. But Jeje has had mixed success so far. The former Mohun Bagan striker drew a blank in the first three games, scored seven in the next nine and struggled to find his feet in the next five games that followed, including a painful miss from the penalty spot.
Despite Jeje's five-match goal drought, coach Gregory believes that the goals will arrive for the 27-year-old striker. "He (Jeje) will score soon. And the longer that (the lull) goes on the sooner he will score. With him, he has this little dry spells where he doesn’t score much but then suddenly he finds form and performs with back-to-back goals in the next couple of games.”, said the coach during the pre-match press conference at the Bambolim Athletic Stadium.
Chennaiyin FC are set to face FC Goa on Saturday, where Gregory's defence will have its task cut out against Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote. The Gaurs have scored the most number of goals in the competition and there is no doubt that most of this is down to the incredible form of the Spanish duo. The onus will be on Jeje to outperform his opponents on Saturday.
"Obviously, Jeje is not so prolific as Lanzo and Coro, who have scored a huge amount of goals this season. As a team, we haven’t been huge goal scorers. We always look to Jeje to try and salvage something for us and he has come up with the goods when we need the most. So, he is due to score," the former Portsmouth coach explained.
Jeje has been a loyal servant of the Chennai-based outfit since 2014 and was the top Indian goalscorer for the Machans in all three previous seasons, netting four goals in 2014, six in 2015 and three in the next season. Notably, it wasn't a surprise when Chennaiyin decided to retain his services for a record salary of Rs 1.3 crore before the start of the season.
One of the reasons why the Mizoram-born forward couldn't make the most of his chances was because he was largely playing the role of the supporting striker behind Elano, Mendoza and Dudu. "This season, only Chennaiyin FC are playing with a lead Indian striker. When the league started, I was thrown a challenge to score goals and help the team because the other teams have foreign strikers who are scoring goals,” Jeje was quoted saying by PTI.
The striker further said that the team has had goal scorers from all over the pitch. "Similarly, Raphael Augusto, Rene Mihelic, Mohammed Rafi, Gregory Nelcon, Francis Fernandes and Anirudha Thapa have also added their names to the long list of scorers for the club," explained the Mizoram striker, who himself has scored seven goals till now for the club.
Handed the job of leading the line by coach Gregory this season, Jeje now needs to prove his worth with a noteworthy display against Goa in the first leg of the semi-final on Saturday. Having received adequate rest ahead of the crucial game against Goa, expectations from the fans will be sky high and this is the time Jeje needs to stand up and deliver the goods for his team.
Updated Date: Mar 09, 2018 23:50 PM