Chennai: The final of the Indian Super League will be a south India derby after Chennaiyin FC drubbed FC Goa 3-0 here on Tuesday for a semifinal aggregate of 4-1. Chennaiyin will meet ISL debutants Bengaluru FC for the big prize in the Karnataka capital on Saturday.
Chennaiyin attracted the largest crowd of the season at the Nehru Stadium on Tuesday and they rewarded the 19,000-odd fans with a clinical performance.
After a six-match drought, forward Jeje Lalpekhlua hit form in the nick of time with two fine goals. The hosts rattled Goa with two goals in three minutes by the half-mark. Jeje opened the account with a sumptuous header before local boy D. Ganesh came with one of his own off a set-piece. Goa had a mountain to climb in the second half and they couldn't eventually scale it.
As anyone would have expected, Goa were the team to attack from the off as they saw more of the ball. They frustrated the home team with their neat passing as Chennaiyin’s defensive line worked overtime in the first 15 minutes defending corner after corner. The Spanish duo of Ferran Corminas and Manuel Lanzarote, and their captain for the night, Mandar Dessai, were running CFC ragged but once the game settled down, the home side made their presence felt.
The goal came from an unlikely source in the 26th minute. Having not found the net in recent memory, Jeje chose the perfect moment to strike gold. Dutchman Gregory Nelson who was proving to be a menace to the visitors’ defence whipped in a cross from left and the unmarked Mizoram striker buried an unstoppable header from inside the six-yard box at the near post. That Jeje didn’t move an inch made the power-packed header all the more remarkable.
The lead injected confidence into Chennaiyin as they attacked with more vigour. The second came three minutes later. Ganesh timed his run to perfection at the far post to connect Nelson’s deep free kick from the left. It was mission impossible for Goa.
There were no changes in Chennaiyin’s plan in the second half: absorb the pressure and wait for a chance on the counter. The backline of Chennaiyin, especially goalkeeper Karanjit Singh, was outstanding throughout the evening. Jeje doubled his tally during the dying minutes to drive the final nail in Goa’s coffin. John Gregory’s team started the season at home with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Goa and they have ended with a 3-0 mauling of the same team.