On Friday, the day before Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Chennaiyin FC's final league game against Mumbai City FC, coach John Gregory had stated that the game was a chance for his fringe players to stake a claim for a spot in his starting XI for the playoffs.
"In the past, some teams have given chances to fringe players in such situations and they have done well and then gone on to feature in the play-offs. So, this is an opportunity for them," he commented.
It seems as if Chennaiyin's Spanish attacking midfielder Jaime Gavilan was certainly listening. For he stood out head and shoulders above anybody else on Saturday night at the Marina Arena as Chennaiyin FC won 1-0 against Mumbai City FC.
Deployed just behind the striker, the Spaniard was at his creative best in a revamped side which was devoid of any real quality. But Gavilan was involved in every positive moment in play for the home team and was generally the difference between the two teams on a drab night.
His performance on the night would certainly out seeds of doubt in Gregory's mind as to who he should start with in the attacking midfielder's role in the semifinals. Neither Raphael Augusto nor Rene Mihelic are absolute shoo-ins to get into the starting XI now.
Chennaiyin FC lacked some fluidity in attack, understandable after eight changes to the lineup, while Mumbai City lacked any real intent themselves. The visitors were already out of the running for a playoff spot and that showed in their gameplay.
Even after going down to a second-half penalty, incidentally won by Gavilan, there was not really much intent to get something from the game. Mumbai City's only threat originated from set-pieces, which was telling.
But Mumbai's defence was culpable on the night as well, as has been the case throughout the season. Marcio Rozario had a poor game in central defence.
He was caught in possession more than once by the enterprising Gavilan who should have had a penalty in the first half after robbing Rozario and surging into the box. Goian tripped him inside the box but the referee waved play on.
The goal too came from a defensive blunder as Wadoo slammed a clearance straight at a teammate. Gavilan raced on to the loose ball and was brought down by Wadoo, giving Mihelic an opportunity to convert the penalty.
At the end of the day, the result was deserved on the balance of play as Chennaiyin FC sealed second spot on the table and will now have the luxury of playing their semifinal second leg at home.
Mumbai City FC now have to introspect and plan for the Super Cup qualifiers.