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ISL 2018-19: Porous midfield hurt Chennaiyin FC as Goa find their groove

06:15 SAST 2018/10/07
Chennaiyin FC Goa ISL
The defending champions have not got off to the best of starts and came a cropper in the middle of the field on Saturday....

Defending champions Chennaiyin FC fell to their second Indian Super League (ISL) defeat in a row after a 3-1 reverse at the hands of FC Goa on Saturday night.

FC Goa, on the other hand, registered their first win of the season and coach Sergio Lobera would be extremely pleased with the way his side played. 

John Gregory? Not so much. 

Both teams made just the solitary change going into the game. John Gregory drafted in Anirudh Thapa in midfield in place of Issac Vanmalsawma while Sergio Lobera brought in Edu Bedia for Carlos Pena. And those changes would go on to impact the game for both sides. 

While Edu Bedia was impressive for the Gaurs in midfield, mixing his passes well and dictating play, Anirudh Thapa endured a poor outing in the middle of the park for the home team. 

Bedia, coming back from suspension, got the deserved opener for Goa by expertly finishing off a cutback from Lenny Rodrigues. Tellingly, Thapa had a chance to clear Lenny's cutback but failed to make a proper connection. 

He and his partner in the Chennaiyin midfield, Germanpreet Singh, were extremely poor. They gave away possession cheaply, failed to close down the spaces as Bedia, Lenny, Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous bossed the show.

When your players cannot retain the ball in midfield nor assert themselves physically against a side like FC Goa who are brilliant on the ball, one is bound to be in trouble. That is exactly what transpired on Saturday. 

Jeje Lalpekhlua had a poor game up front as well. He did not get the service he would expect and could not influence the build-up play too. On the rare occassions that he touched the ball, Mourtada Fall and Chinglensana Singh would easily outmuscle him. 

Carlos Salom, after coming on for Jeje, had a much better game. The Palestinian striker showed that he has a touch of pace in his game and was very involved in the attacks as the Marina Machans chased goals in the latter stages. He might well have given John Gregory some food for thought for the coming games. 

However, it was not all gloom and doom for the defending champions. For all FC Goa's smoothness in attack, they were only one goal ahead till the 53rd minute. Chennaiyin had looked threatening towards the end of the first half and the start of the second and the prospect of an equaliser did not look distant. 

But the second goal, courtesy a collective defensive failure knocked the stuffing out of the home team. It was going to be a mountain to climb after that. 

Being defending champions, the fact that they are yet to open their account in the league will add more pressure on Chennaiyin FC. But it is still early in the league and all it takes is a win to turn around the mood. 

However, the coach should be looking at changing the team combination around a bit.