It was a clinical display by John Gregory’s men against ATK with two second-half goals from CK Vineeth and Anirudh Thapa sealing a 2-0 win. It has been a season to forget so far for the 2017-18 ISL champions with their title defence ending in shambles with a wooden spoon finish.
Chennaiyin were able to muster just the two wins in their 18 ISL clashes at this season and deservedly finished dead-last in the league. In fact, this was the worst performance by any side in the short history of the ISL. However, their form in knock-out competitions has been immune from their vulnerabilities in the league with their Super Cup run serving as evidence.
Gregory and his men have beaten three ISL sides that finished comfortably above them in the league table to book their spot in the Super Cup final. The wins have come against a NorthEast United side which secured its maiden ISL play-off qualification earlier in the season and against an ATK side that narrowly missed out on the top-four places.They also defeated Mumbai City FC who fielded a weakened outfit.
Chennaiyin performing well in knock-out matches is no secret with the Tamil Nadu based outfit making a habit of winning such clashes over their five years of existence. In the final of the Super Cup, they will be up against a Goa side whom they had dispatched by a 4-1 aggregate in the two-legged ISL play-off last season.
What followed after that needs no reminding with Chennaiyin sucker-punching heavy favourites Bengaluru FC in the final to lift their second ISL title in history.
In the 2015 edition of the ISL, Chennaiyin made a strong run in the second-half of the competition to sneak into the play-offs where they beat the highly fancied defending champions Atletico de Kolkata (now ATK) in the two-legged semi-final by a 4-2 aggregate margin.
In the final, Marco Materazzi’s men were trailing 1-2 to Zico’s FC Goa when the 90th minute approached before two late goals sealed a sensational come-from-behind 3-2 win and a maiden ISL title.
Even in the inaugural edition of the ISL in 2014, Chennaiyin had done well in the play-off stage despite going down 0-3 to Kerala Blasters in the first-leg away. They bounced back strongly in the second-leg by racing into a 3-0 lead to take the match into extra-time where a late Stephen Pearson goal broke their hearts and sent Kerala into the final.
Quite simply, Chennaiyin have developed a penchant of rising to the occasion and excelling in knock-out clashes with the current side at Gregory’s disposal perfectly embodying that trait.
In contrast, knock-out clashes have proved to be the bane for Goa who have made it to the ISL play-offs in all but one edition (2016) but have no trophy to show for despite advancing to the final on two occasions.
As such, it is all pointing towards to another trophy for Chennaiyin come Saturday and it remains to be seen if Goa can shed their knock-out woes and break their trophy drought. Going by form, it is advantage FC Goa all the way.