ISL 2019-20, FC Goa vs Chennaiyin FC: Hosts fail to keep all-important clean sheet as Chennai add another chapter to fairytale season
The match ended 4-2 in Goa's favour, but it was not enough to take them to the final. Chennaiyin fought hard and took their chances to qualify for their third final in six seasons.
Owen Coyle's Chennaiyin FC fought hard and took their chances to qualify for their third final in six seasons.
It was a tremendous effort from Chennaiyin, who had won just one match from their opening six matches this season.
Goa didn't make to the final, but it's still a season to remember. They ended up as table toppers, scoring the most number of goals, winning 12 games and losing just three.
FC Goa started the second leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final with three goals down. At the end of the match at Fatorda, they had scored four and even won the game. But biggest problem here was that they failed to keep a clean sheet and that was their undoing. On Saturday, FC Goa, the league toppers, did not qualify for the final after losing the tie 5-6 on aggregate. Chennaiyin won the first leg of the semi-final 4-1.
The second leg produced all the randomness of football in its scintillating best. Full-blown attacking football, desperate defending, sloppy misses, goalkeeper error, an own goal, a red card and six goals. The match ended 4-2 in Goa's favour, but it was not enough to take them to the final. Chennaiyin fought hard and took their chances to qualify for their third final in six seasons.
The match started on an expected note, with Goa going for the goals right from the first minute. They lost the first-leg, but on Saturday, they were playing at their home, where they lost only once in the league stage. Their confidence was also boosted by the return of their important attacking players. Hugo Boumous was declared fit, Edu Bedia returned from Spain and Brandon Fernandes recovered from his injury. Chennniyin's playing XI was unchanged as Owen Coyle preferred not to tamper with the team that pulled off a superb victory in the first-leg.
In the first minute itself, Chennaiyin conceded a free kick at the edge of the box. Ahmed Jahouh lofted it towards Carlos Pena near the far post, but the defender's header was just wide. If a team is chasing a big goal margin in the second leg, the best way to make a comeback is by scoring an early goal. It's easier said than done, but an early goal can really change the complexion of the match. When it comes to attack, Goa does the best, having scored the most number of goals in the league. After orchestrating numerous attacking moves in the first ten minutes itself, the goal they had been searching finally came courtesy Chennaiyin's Lucian Goian. A looping ball found Jackichand Singh on the right, who ran hard to put in a cross as Goian mistimed his header to slot the ball inside his own net.
Ten minutes later, Lenny Rodrigues won a free kick after Anirudh Thapa fouled him. Brandon took charge and delivered a perfect ball into the box. Mourtada Fall got to the ball first with his jump and headed in Goa's second of the night. Fatorda erupted. Chennaiyin players were shocked. Goa players hardly celebrated. Goa wanted to pull off a miracle, the mother of all comebacks in the ISL, and so far, their plan was working to the T. All they needed was one more goal and stopping Chennaiyin from scoring.
Just when Goa's hopes were at an all time high, Boumous went down injured. He has been outstanding for his team this season, scoring goals as well as creating opportunities for players around him. Goa needed him on the pitch for this crucial match after he missed the first leg due to injury, but it was not meant to be. He had to be taken off and Edu Bedia replaced him. Still, all was not lost for Goa. They slowed down the match after Boumous' exit. The controlled the proceedings, keeping the possession while Chennai struggle to create chances.
Chennaiyin manager Coyle knew that the momentum is with Goa and it would not take long before they score the third goal. He had the aggregate advantage, but his team can't just sit back and defend, not against this Goa team. Two minutes into the second-half, Goa got a golden chance to make it 3-0. Sertion Fernandes delivered a low cross into the box, with Corominas letting it go for Jackichand, whose terrible finishing skills let him down. Four minutes later, Goa's task of making it to the final became an humongous one. Chennaiyin's Rafael Crivellaro collected the ball outside the box, ran a few yards and hit it with his left-foot. Instead of grabbing the ball, Goa goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz sends it to the pathway of Lallianzuala Chhangte, who comes up with easiest of finishes.
Goa's improbable mission went awry after conceding a goal, and then seven minutes later, it was curtains for them when Chennaiyin scored their second goal. A thumping header by an unmarked Nerijus Valskis as Goa tried to defend a corner. With the score being 2-2 and less than 30 minutes remaining, even the league's most attacking team knew that it's more or less game over.
Nevertheless, Goa kept pushing for goals. After scoring two goals, Chennaiyin players were focussed on closing the game out. In the 81st minute, a failed clearance from Chennai resulted in opening up of space for Fall on the left side of the box. The defender passed it to Bedia, who came up with a cool finish to score Goa's third for the night. Fatorda's cheers became more louder when Fall scored his second goal, thanks to a long ball from Jahouh. The ball bounced in front of Fall, who was inside the box and made no mistake in heading it inside the net.
Goa had seven minutes plus injury time to score two more goals. The tension inside the stadium had reached its zenith. The home team put in crosses after crosses only for Chennaiyin players to clear the chances. Vishal Kaith, Chennai's goalkeeper, also kept his nerves under check to deny opportunities to Goa.
Chennaiyin players finally had a sigh of relief when referee blew the final whistle after four minutes of injury time. A tremendous effort from the team, who had won just one match from their opening six matches this season. They had to fire their coach John Gregory after enduring a terrible start. Coyle came in at a difficult time and changed the fortunes of the team. Goa needed a miracle in the second leg, but after the match, that word is more apt for Chennaiyin. They will now fight for their third ISL title on 14 March at the same stadium.
Goa didn't make it to the final, but it's still a season to remember. They ended up as table toppers, scoring the most number of goals, winning 12 games and losing just three. They have also qualified for the AFC Champions League group stage by virtue of topping the table. Interim coach Clifford Miranda called it a great season for the team and it's very hard to dispute the statement.
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