Chennaiyin FC made it to their second Indian Super League (ISL) final after a 3-0 second leg victory (4-1 on aggregate) over FC Goa at the Marina Arena in Chennai on Tuesday.
A brace from Jeje (26', 90') and a Dhanpal Ganesh header (29') was enough for the South Indian side to quell the challenge of the Gaurs who were defensively at sixes and sevens.
John Gregory opted to stick with the same team which garnered a 1-1 draw away in the first leg in Goa while Sergio Lobera opted to make two changes to his team. In came Moroccan midfielder Hugo Boumous after recovering from an injury and goalkeeper Naveen Kumar replaced Laxmikant Kattimani between the sticks.
The Gaurs kicked things off in Chennai and looked dangerous right from the outset. Mandar got to the byline and fizzed a low delivery across the box. Thankfully for Chennaiyin, no Goa player was in a position to knock it in.
The home team struggled to break free from their half in the initial exchanges as the Goa midfield asserted themselves. Ahmed Jahouh played a fantastic through ball in the 11th minute to release Boumous inside the penalty area. He got to the byline and picked out Mandar whose shot from close range was blocked by Karanjit before Henrique Sereno hooked it clear.
Dhanpal Ganesh then went into the referee's book for felling Ferran Corominas right outside the area in the 13th minute. But Lanzarote's freekick was palmed away by a diving Karanjit as the home team held on.
The home team slowly started to see more of the ball and had their first real chance when Francisco's attempted cross hit Narayan Das' flailing arm down the right wing in the 21st minute. Nelson's subsequent freekick found Jeje unmarked inside the area but the forward could not time his leap and sent the header over the bar.
But that positive period of play was capitalised on by the home team who stunned Goa with two goals in quick succession.
In the 26th minute, they won a throw-in near the corner flag on the left wing. The ball was worked to Nelson, who whipped in a cross with his left foot. The delivery found Jeje, criminally left unmarked inside the six-yard box, who headed it in with aplomb and ended his six-game goal drought.
Three minutes later, Jeje won a free-kick down the left wing. Nelson whipped in another dangerous cross, this time with his right foot, and it found Ganesh at the far post who glanced it in. The Tamil Nadu midfielder was allowed the freedom to head it in by Narayan Das who was marking him.
FC Goa slowly found their passing rhythm back and did come close to pulling a goal back as the game neared half-time. In the 42nd minute, Boumous did well to chest a ball down and enter the box. He went on to tee it off for Mandar with a backheel but the winger's subsequent shot on goal was saved by Karanjit.
Post the half-time break, Chennaiyin FC started well and saw a rasping half-volley the edge of the area by Raphael Augusto go just over.
FC Goa then forced a chance for themselves in the 51st minute when Jahouh's long ball saw Coro get in behind the defence. But Mailson recovered well to force him wide and deflect his eventual shot for a corner.
Though the Gaurs fizzed in some dangerous balls into the box from wide positions, Sereno and Mailson were largely untroubled.
Lobera made his first change of the night around the hour mark by bringing on Brandon Fernandes for Narayan Das. Mandar shifted to left-back as a result. The Spanish coach went on to make two more changes in the 69th minute, taking off Sergio Juste and Pronay Halder for Mark Sifneos and Mohamed Ali.
But frequent stoppages in play meant the visitors were unable to find any rhythm in their game which suited Chennaiyin FC. The Marina Machans themselves were finding joy on the break and on one such occasion, Raphael Augusto jinked past the defenders into the box but his tame shot was straight at Naveen Kumar.
Anirudh Thapa, who had been sent on for Bikramjit, almost followed up his goal in the first leg with another when the ball broke kindly to him on the edge of the area. But his half-volley was just about kept out by Naveen Kumar.
At the other end, Jahouh saw a long-ranger palmed over by Karanjit but were just not able to penetrate the Chennaiyin defence. Jeje then wrapped things up in the 90th minute when Gavilan's through-ball was not controlled by Ali.
Jeje, through on goal, slotted it past Karanjit to send the home crowd into raptures as Goa's swash-buckling season came to an end.