The visitors hold the advantage going into the second leg thanks to Anirudh Thapa’s vital away goal.
FC Goa were held to a 1-1 draw against Chennaiyin FC in the first leg of the second semi-final in Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday. Manuel Lanzarote scored the first goal of the game, while substitute Anirudh Thapa equalised seven minutes later.
While speaking about the draw at the post-match press conference, Goa’s head coach Sergio Lobera opined: “I think the result is yet to be decided. The elimination between both the teams is still completely open. What we have here is enough for us to go through and we need to score there (in Chennai). Today, it was a little difficult to get a result against a team who is so brilliantly organised as well as defensively strong as Chennai were today. But having said that, for us it is not such an obstacle to go there and try and score a goal because that’s what we need to do to make it to the final.”
He continued, “As far as the performance of the team is concerned, there were different phases. I thought there was a lot of space between the lines. We had possession, but we were very far away from the opposition goal and when we were attacking, we did not have a lot of numbers up there near the goal. So, with this result today, the team is a little more divided and it physically cost us a little as well.”
When asked if they missed Hugo Boumous and if he’ll be available for the return leg, the Spaniard said: “I think he will recover in time for the next game. It was also a case of ensuring that we did not take any risks. We will see how he is in the next couple of days and then take a decision if he can feature in the next (match).”
Goa won 3-2 when they visited Chennai last time around and when commenting on if that will be a morale boost, Lobera said: “Yes, we were capable of doing that there, but right now the circumstances need to serve us as a form of motivation. But we have to keep in mind that whatever happened in the past has nothing to do with what is going to happen in the next couple of days’ time. We have to prepare well for the game. We have to recover the players quickly within the two days of gap we have and go there and try and win.”
When quizzed on his thoughts about the return leg, the 41-year-old added: “Yes, of course, we have confidence. We haven’t lost anything. Obviously, it’s not a result we would have liked but the game and the result is completely open so far. We are a team who normally score goals and why can’t we do that there? My confidence is maximum. I think we have a lot of possibilities to be in the final and we have to do everything very well in the next game.”
Commenting on if Chennai were pleased with the result, John Gregory stated: “When I look at the scoring opportunities we had, we could’ve done better and got a 3-0 advantage. To be fair, we had clear opportunities, where we were one-on-one with the goalkeeper (Laxmikant) Kattimani, and to be fair to him, he did a fantastic job. He made some very good saves and I think his team should thank him for making those kinds of saves because that’s what kept the tie alive.”
He continued: “He almost kept a clean sheet till the end. We managed to get a goal but up until then, he performed very well. I am very disappointed in many respects. I have to talk to some of my players just to get their chins off their chests. Disappointed with the chances we had, which we didn’t take. But at the end of the match, I was very happy to come away with a 1-1 draw. I think it’s six matches now that we are unbeaten and as you saw, my players keep on going no matter what happens.”
When asked about the physicality in the contest, the 63-year-old said: “I think we finished strongly. The substitutions we made also certainly helped. One or two (players) started to tire and we managed to get two sets of fresh legs on. It’s a team game for us. We do not have any stars or individuals and we play collectively together. There is something when you’re playing continuously over a short period of time. We went through a period where we played five games in 17 days, which was a huge task for us. But I rested a lot of players in our last game, giving young players a chance.”
As far as his forwards were concerned, Gregory said: “We are not as creative as Goa, it’s as simple as that. Our players work in a good system, where they all complement each other and work very hard for each other. And we get the best out of every player, in whatever position they play. Obviously, Goa is a passing team. They pass from the goalkeeper to right across the back four and are very comfortable in possession. We, on the other hand, are rebuilding.”
“We play in a slightly different way than Goa. Nevertheless, we make sure that we make it difficult for the opposition to play against us. Every team in the league will testify that you get nothing easy when you play against us because all the players work so hard on the field. We had those flashes of brilliance as you saw from Gregory Nelson, who brilliantly assisted Anirudh Thapa. It’s a priceless away goal for us,” he added.
Gregory also revealed how they contained Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote. “We have a lot of respect for Lanzarote and Corominas. The goals that they have scored this season, many of them have been incredible and spectacular goals. Together they have a very good understanding, similar to Marcelinho and (Emiliano) Alfaro at Pune,” he said.
The Englishman concluded: “They know each other’s games, they play off each other and they are a constant danger. Having said that, both Mailson (Alves) and (Henrique) Sereno did a great job against them. Lanzarote did manage to score from a rebound but defensively, we were very aware of them. We did give more attention to them than other strikers in Hero ISL because they are very special, and the team is very lucky to have them. Goa is a very difficult team to play against.”