Chennai: Chennaiyin FC enter Tuesday’s second leg of the semi-final in ISL-4 with a decisive advantage over FC Goa as a goalless draw at Nehru Stadium here will set up a date with Bengaluru FC in the final after they had nicked a crucial away goal in the first leg.
FC Goa would like to believe that the result of Chennaiyin’s final home match of the season would be similar to their first, having inflicted a 3-2 defeat on John Gregory’s team. After conceding three goals in the first half in that defeat, Chennaiyin mounted a spectacular comeback to finish the league in second place. The team’s superb show in a 1-1 result in the first leg of the semi-final was proof that the opening defeat was an aberration.
The progress of Chennaiyin and Goa to the play-offs couldn’t have been starker. While the Spanish duo of Ferran Corominas and Maneul Lanzarote scored a staggering 31 goals for Goa, as many as 11 players have been on the score sheet for Chennaiyin. If football is all about team work, no team embodies it like Gregory’s boys.
At the same time, credit must be given to Coro and Lanzarote for banging in goals with metronomic regularity because football is all about putting the ball in the back of the net. Although Chennaiyin’s spirited defence managed to keep the Spaniards quiet for most of the first period in Goa, a slight lapse in concentration and some space allowed them to show how devastating they could be.
With three Chennaiyin defenders receiving yellow cards in the first leg, Gregory would be keen to have his entire backline for the final should they reach there. It is a concern for him because no player has immunity from the thought of missing the final through suspension.
The home team’s lone striker Jeje Lalpekhlua has shown no sign of recovery from his dip in form. The forward has often remained cut off from action of late, so the onus of scoring goals is on the all outfield players. Super sub Anirudh Thapa delivered in the first leg with a fine goal after being set up by the Dutch winger Gregory Nelson.