ISL 2019-20: Lucian Goian's goal gives Chennaiyin FC the perfect result on imperfect day of football as fairytale continues
With all to play for, away from home, Chennaiyin managed to eke out the critical result in a high stake match with some determined football. On an imperfect night for the side, Chennaiyin secured the perfect result. But by winning ugly on the night, Chennaiyin have proved that they are capable of having a perfect end to the season as well.
From five points in first six games to qualifying for semi-finals, the 2019-20 campaign has been a season of great turnaround for Chennaiyin
Chennaiyin have collected 19 out of last 21 available points with six wins in seven matches
Chennaiyin have one more game to play and can still finish third in the league table ahead of Bengaluru FC
Exactly two years ago the then Mumbai City FC captain Lucian Goian scored a last-minute winner against NorthEast United FC to keep his club's play-off spot hopes alive.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) February 22, 2018
On Friday, the Romanian center-back found his name once again on the score-sheet but this time playing against Mumbai for Chennaiyin FC. The 83rd minute strike from the towering defender proved to be the difference on the night as Chennaiyin defeated Jorge Costa's Mumbai to seal a play-off spot. The prodigal son had come back to haunt his former club. It was heartbreak in dying minutes for the home team and fans.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) February 21, 2020
Cagey affair and wasteful Mumbai
Both Mumbai and Chennaiyin walked into the match with their fate in their hands. A win for either of the sides meant a confirmed semi-finals berth. A draw would have kept both parties interested till the last gameday, but with Chennaiyin still having a game in hand, Mumbai would have had to rely on results from other matches. And the effect of this cushion was visible on the Owen Coyle's side on the pitch.
Coyle's men had forced 18 goals in last six matches while Mumbai have the third-worst defence in the league and worst amongst top seven teams, yet it was the visiting side which struggled to find any sort of momentum in the first half.
“We weren’t as fluid as we have been lately, but I have to credit the players for the way they stepped up. Four players, including Nerijus Valskis, had food poisoning last night. We showed real character, mental strength, and desire tonight. We can still improve but this team has great qualities,” said Coyle after the match explaining Chennaiyin's struggle on the night.
Winning was Mumbai's only option and while they controlled the game in the first half, their inability to force too many clear cut chances and, on top of that, the failure to convert any of the chances that they created came back to haunt them in the end. They had four shots in the first half against Chennaiyin's one. It was the first time Chennaiyin only had one shot at the goal in a fist half of a football match under Coyle.
Chennaiyin were also handicapped to an extend by the injury of forward Andre Schembri, who had to be replaced by Dragos Firtulescu in the starting XI. With one of the key components missing from the engine of their attack, the visitors struggled to stitch effective moves even as Mato Grgic and Pratik Chowdhary bossed at the back. Mumbai's striker Amine Chermiti had a free header in the 25th minute but it was skied over the bar.
The game, however, opened for good in the second half after Mumbai's Sourav Das was red carded for a foul from behind on last man Lallianzuala Chhangte. Just moments ago, Chermiti was brought down outside of the box by Chennaiyin goalie Vishal Kaith but it was only deemed a yellow card offence from the referee.
The red card provided the much-needed impetus to the match but it was Mumbai who went on the offensive. Despite being a man down, Mumbai took to the attack spurred by the thought of elimination. They knew it was do-or-die. Chermiti had another one-on-one opportunity after Diego Carlos set him up but the Tunisian striker put his shot wide. It was confirmed it was not going to be Mumbai's night. Goian made no such mistake when the chance fell to him. A tired Mumbai gave acres of space to the defender during a corner and the result from it was fatal.
“It was not a perfect game from both teams. Today we had two teams who were working hard during the game. We didn’t have many spaces to work with. Chennaiyin are doing an amazing job. They deserve to finish in the top four, especially for the last seven games that they have played," said Jorge Costa, who was a proud man on the night.
The great escape
Chennaiyin had no right to be in the semi-finals and here they are, on the back of a miraculous turnaround scripted under the tutelage of the affable Coyle. The team from South India had only accumulated five points from first six games after a horrific start to the season when the management decided to shake things up. John Gregory, who led the team to the title in 2017-18, was shown the door and in came Coyle. The journey since then has been a fairytale.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) February 21, 2020
From the impossible to qualification into last four with a game in hand, Coyle's Chennaiyin are the miracle men of the season. Truckload of goals, and an unbeaten streak has become the identity of this team. They have been unbeaten in the last seven matches including six wins. 19 points out of the possible 21 have been accumulated and the result is for everyone to see. In many ways, the ongoing campaign is mirroring the 2015 season when Chennaiyin scripted a similar turnaround to capture their first title.
After just 10 points from first 10 matches, Marco Materazzi and his men went to on to become the eventual champions and Coyle and his boys seem to be on the same route. More importantly, with all to play for, away from home, Chennaiyin managed to eke out the critical result in a high stake match with some determined football. On an imperfect night, Chennaiyin secured the perfect result. But by winning ugly on the night, Chennaiyin have proved that they are capable of having a perfect end to the season as well.
Brandon, 26, has been with FC Goa since being selected by the Gaurs in the 2017 ISL draft, a media release issued said.
AFC Champions League: Ex-India captain Bruno Coutinho urges FC Goa to adopt ‘meticulous’ approach, ‘winning mentality’
ISL champions FC Goa will become the first club from the country to play in the continental club competition on 14 April when they take on Qatar's Al-Rayyan.
The AIFF said it arrived at the decision after an "internal discussion and communication with the clubs and state associations".