News Matches
Chennaiyin vs Goa

Chennaiyin FC were everything FC Goa were supposed to be, and that made the difference!

05:15 GMT 02/03/2020
Chennaiyin vs FC Goa
Owen Coyle's side were full value for the thumping win against Goa and it had a lot to do with a concrete belief in their ability...

If somebody had predicted a 4-1 scoreline before the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) play-off clash between Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa, most would've assumed it was a win for the Gaurs.

But what transpired on Saturday night in Chennai was exactly the opposite. It was Owen Coyle's remarkable team that had handed the ISL table-toppers a beating. In doing so, they did what we were all so used to seeing FC Goa do to their opponents in the league stages.

In taking the game to their opponents, in showing off their flair while going forward and in scoring goals in clumps to demoralise the opponent, Chennaiyin became the monster they were supposed to face.

More importantly, it was not an isolated result.

This was coming, thanks to an unwavering confidence that the Marina Machans have developed in their ability to hurt their opponents, regardless of who they are. A quality that has manifested in themselves, thanks to a run of eight games unbeaten towards the end of the league stages, with six of them victories. Of course, this is an aspect which has a lot to do with Coyle's fresh approach that has brought the best out of what appeared to be a rudderless side at the start of the season.

The truth is their poor start to the season masks the actual impact of what Chennaiyin did to qualify for the play-offs. They had attacking numbers that were comparable to FC Goa. Only FC Goa were doing it from the start of the season while Chennaiyin had to tide over a poor start. In the last eight matches of the season, FC Goa scored 23 goals while Chennaiyin pumped in 21 goals.

It was no wonder when FC Goa interim coach Clifford Miranda admitted Chennaiyin were one team they wanted to avoid in the play-offs. This came from the coach of a team that had just qualified for the AFC Champions League and had scored a record-breaking 46 goals in the league stages.

One could argue the fact that FC Goa missed two of their key players this season in Hugo Boumous and Brandon Fernandes to injuries before the game. But this is a team that beat Chennaiyin FC 3-0 in the opening game of the season with just three foreigners in their line-up. And the lineup back then had just the one change from the starting XI that played Saturday's game - Brandon had played instead of the infuential Ahmed Jahouh.

But the approach to both the games from FC Goa was vastly different. Getting through the first leg without much damage seemed to be the priority for Goa on Saturday. It was an approach that one does not associate with them.

Chennaiyin, on the other hand, did exactly what helped them get to this stage. They were confident in possession right from the start and looked to be in control even though the first half ended with both sides on an equal footing.

Goa's game is so much about their brilliant forwards as much as it is about their wide men. The wingers and full-backs marauding forward constantly is a regular sight in Goa's games but it was a rare sight on Saturday night. The full-backs, Mandar Rao Dessai and Seriton Fernandes, were more concerned about their defensive duties while the wingers - Jackichand Singh and Seiminlen Doungel - were anonymous.

Much of that credit also goes to Jerry Lalrinzuala and Laldinliana Renthlei - the two names that invariably crop up, and invariably fly under the radar, when Coyle speaks about the best Indian players in his team. Both full-backs were outstanding in both areas of the pitch on the night.

With Manvir Singh not having much of an impact, it was down to Ferran Corominas who was playing a withdrawn role to create something in attack. But with Edwin Vanspaul breathing down his neck at every opportunity, even his influence was limited.

At the other end, Ahmed Jahouh waged a physical battle against Chennaiyin's creative outlet Rafael Crivellaro which helped to keep things in check to an extent, at least in the first half.

But the second half saw Chennaiyin step things up a notch, and blowing the Goan defence away in the process. All they needed was a trigger. And that arrived in the form of Lucian Goian who outjumped Goa custodian Mohammed Nawaz to convert a set-piece.

Riding the momentum that a goal gives is something that FC Goa knows all about. However, they were powerless to deal with it when it was dished out to them. Gaurs' defence crumbled as Anirudh Thapa turned into the driving force that Coyle had exhorted him to be at the break.

His sumptuous strike for the second goal, which arrived within seven minutes of the first, had quality written all over it. He would then play a key role in negating Goa's response and launching counter-attacks that ultimately deflated them, even providing the assist for Lallianzuala Chhangte's fourth goal.

Big moments often tend to escape FC Goa, something which is illustrated by the fact that they have never won the ISL despite making the play-offs four times in five seasons before the current campaign.

It might escape them yet again this season, unless they pull their act together in the second leg, with or without Boumous and Brandon. Given the kind of firepower they possess, one wouldn't put it past them.

As far as Chennaiyin are concerned, it is all about doing what they do best. Score again in Goa, the tie might well be finished.