Chennaiyin Set Up Saturday Showdown With Bengaluru

Match Report Indian Super League

John Gregory’s Chennaiyin absorbed everything that FC Goa threw at them and came away eventual 3-0 winners on the night, 4-1 on aggregate. Going into the game, FC Goa knew they had to score because if the game remained 0-0 after ninety minutes then Chennaiyin would’ve qualified by virtue of away goals, which was introduced for the first time this season. Sergio Lobera got it wrong as he went gung-ho from the off and after Chennaiyin eventually got a bit of the ball after Goa’s early onslaught, they were precise and clinical.

Gregory Has Lobera Sussed

Yesterday marked the first time in six games that FC Goa hadn’t scored and considering they finished as top goalscorers in the league, it may come as a surprise that they couldn’t break Chennaiyin’s defence down. However, the last time they failed to score was also against Chennaiyin, so Gregory has evidently got Lobera sussed.

Hugo Boumous was reintroduced after missing the first-leg through injury which meant that there was some extra zeal to Goa’s play and it was very nearly Boumous who orchestrated the opening goal. He pulled the ball back to Mandar Desai when there were less than fifteen minutes on the clock, but a combination of good goalkeeping by Karanjit and a goal-line clearance ensured the score remained goalless.

We’ll go back to how we did the reports for the last couple of games of the normal season, we’ll run through the goals and then some talking points, I just thought that Mandar’s chance warranted its own little bit because it was crucial. If that goes in, it’s a completely different ball game.

Chennaiyin’s main man, Jeje, put Chennai one to the good just after the twenty-minute mark. Quite what Sergio Juste and Konsham were thinking as the ball was floated into the near post, I’m not so sure. They both seemed to leave Jeje for one another as he rose unattended to get his first goal since late January. What a time to get it.

Halftime Jelly Babies

FC Goa have the mentality ‘if you score five, we’ll score six’ so they wouldn’t have been too disheartened by Jeje’s opener because, in reality, their task hadn’t changed, they just needed to score. Lobera must’ve been wishing he had worked on defence in training because the second goal wasn’t much better than the first from a defensive perspective. Gregory Nelson pinged it in from a set piece on the left and there was Dhanapal Ganesh to head home.

As the teams went in for their halftime jelly babies (is that still a thing?), John Gregory knew that all he had to do was keep his side level-headed and their place in the final would be confirmed. Lobera, on the other hand, needed something special and he needed it fast.

Believe it or not, Chennaiyin actually had more of the ball in the second half and they played it incredibly well as they didn’t push too many men forward in search of a third, although they didn’t sit back either. It makes sense to me. With the game drawing to a close, Lobera naturally had to throw caution to the wind and that in turn meant there were extra gaps in FC Goa’s defence. Not that there needed to be any extra ones. Anyway, Jeje sprung the offside trap brilliantly and put it into the bottom left-hand corner to confirm their date with Bengaluru on Saturday.

So, that was that as we said goodbye to FC Goa for this league campaign and while ultimately, it may have ended in disappointment, there were plenty of positives for FC Goa to take away from this season, none more so than the combination of Coro and Lanzarote who bossed the end of season power rankings. That’ll all get covered a little bit further down the line, before that, let’s look at the talking points from the actual game…

#1 Karanjit The Cat

FC Goa have only failed to score four times since the season began back in November and two of those have been against Chennaiyin with Karanjit in between the sticks. Some of the saves he pulled off yesterday were sublime and Chennaiyin will do well to keep hold of him in the summer as the merry-go-round of goalkeepers has started with Goa’s Naveen Kumar moving to Kerala.

He has played all bar one game this season for John Gregory’s side in what is his third campaign for the ISL side; prior to this season, he hasn’t even hit double figures when it comes to the number of appearances for him, but Gregory’s decision to make him his number one looks to have paid off.

#2 Possession Isn’t The Be All And End All

Lobera has not tried to hide the style of football he wants his team to play and as mentioned earlier, it has cost his side dearly. They have comfortably had the most possession this year by some distance and in Ahmed Jahouh and Edu Bedia, they have arguably the two best passers of the ball on their side.

Over the two legs, the aggregate possession score was 123% to FC Goa and 77% to Chennaiyin which makes the 4-1 aggregate score all the more staggering. It just goes to show that it’s what you do with the ball that matters most as opposed to how long you can keep it for.

#3 Surely Jeje Couldn’t, Could He?

Jeje Lalpekhlua is one of those players who takes a chance when it comes his way. Well, normally. Credit where it’s due, Gregory has stuck with his man and he’s reaped the rewards. He’s featured in every game with the exception of the Mumbai game on the final day of the season where Gregory made wholesale changes and a return of just under one in two is some good going. Imagine what he could be one without his barren spell.

Going into Saturday’s final, it puts him four goals behind Bengaluru’s hat-trick hero, Sunil Chhetri, in the race to finish as India’s top goalscorer. Surely, he couldn’t overhaul Chhetri? Then again, this is the ISL after all.

After ninety-four games, it boils down to the game on Saturday and with both of them beating each other earlier in the season, the game really could go either way. As the game gets closer, we’ll be looking at it from a number of different angles. I’ll see you tomorrow for the report on Bengaluru’s AFC game against Abahani Dhaka.

Until the next time.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?