The second leg of the playoff fixture between the two sides will be played on Saturday evening.
Chennaiyin FC registered a crushing 4-1 win over table-toppers FC Goa in the opening semi-final of ISL this season. All goals came in the second half after an entertaining yet goalless first half.
The Marina Machans were good value for their win as they were more robust, and more incisive in their gameplay. The Gaurs, on the other hand, lacked focus and looked listless in the second half but with their away goal will see a flicker of hope going into the return fixture at Fatorda Stadium on Saturday.
Here are the five major talking points from the game in Chennai.
5. The absence of Brandon Fernandes
Brandon Fernandes has been one of the best players for FC Goa this season. His partnership with Hugo Boumous has been an important reason why FC Goa finished at the top of the table this season. The absence of Brandon meant FC Goa lacked creativity in midfield and it added pressure on Ahmed Jahouh and forced him to play further forward and contrary to his natural game against Chennaiyin FC.
FC Goa also struggled to get the ball moving forward quickly and struggled in transition play without the presence of the India international. FC Goa also missed Brandon’s vision and capability to move the ball long that would’ve helped the team with their quick and physically strong forwards which was also a struggle against the in-form centre-back duo of Chennaiyin FC.
4. Chennaiyin FC’s centre-back duo’s strong performance
The centre-back duo of Chennaiyin FC – Eli Sabia and Lucian Goian, had another stellar performance against FC Goa in the first leg of the playoffs. The duo did not just put up a strong defensive performance but also got on the score-sheet.
The duo of Sabia and Goian have been one of the strongest defensive partnerships this season in the ISL and provided a good account of their class, which can serve to be a lesson for their defensive counterparts from FC Goa in the second leg.
Considering Chennaiyin FC conceded three in the first half when the two teams met in the group stage, the Marina Machans’ defence had Eli Sabia, who had missed out against FC Goa earlier in the season due to a suspension. The rearguard of the Machans kept it’s shape throughout the match and didn’t give the Gaurs the breathing space and freedom in the final third – which led the Gaurs to shooting astray.
3. An Anirudh Thapa masterclass
Since his arrival in Indian shores, head coach Owen Coyle has always maintained that Anirudh Thapa is the best Indian midfielder in the league. Thapa has gone a long way in proving the coach’s words true with a stellar performance that deservedly helped him win him the Hero of the Match award.
Thapa mastered the midfield on the night and scored a tremendous curler which was a testament to his work-rate and efficiency as well as playing in a box-to-box role to perfection. The 22-year-old registered a passing accuracy of 73% along with one shot on target, that resulted in a goal that might as well win him the Goal of the Season award.
2. FC Goa’s lack of clinicality in front of the goal
FC Goa contains arguably the best frontline in the league, in terms of goalscoring and creativity with Ferran Corominas, Hugo Boumous and Jackichand Singh. However, the big names failed to show up on the night and the lack of clinicality in the final third came to bite FC Goa hard in the game.
FC Goa had 11 shots against Chennaiyin FC and only four of them were on target. Compared to the Gaurs, the Marina Machans made eight shots, out of which six landed on the target – a ratio that shows the disparity in attacking firepower and efficiency. Chennaiyin were incisive and were always on the lookout for chances whereas FC Goa were more pragmatic in their approach and not looking dangerous from shooting scenarios. While they were taking shots in numbers, they never really tested Vishal Kaith under the bars.
If the Gaurs’ performance in the first leg is anything to go by then the table-toppers will only have good fortune to count upon if they are to overcome this huge deficit at Fatorda. Derrick Pereira has a massive job on his hands on that front.
1. Powerful wingplay by Chennaiyin FC
Chennaiyin FC’s wingers were once again in form with Chhangte, Vanspaul and Schembri combining speed and strength on the wings. They were constantly testing Goa’s wing-backs and the opposition was always in a struggle at keeping the wingers of Chennaiyin FC at an arm’s length.
FC Goa’s wingers on the other hand, with Seiminlen Doungel and Jackichand Singh’s performance needing more from the two in the second leg. The duo created a cumulative three chances on the night, a number which was equaled by Lallianzuala Chhangte himself. The FC Goa duo made only one shot together in the game, which was off target as well.
Chennaiyin FC’s pressing approach against FC Goa won them the game and Owen Coyle has promised most of the same in the second leg. If the Marina Machans continue their performance as they did in the first leg, a spot in the final is just a matter of time for them. FC Goa, on the other hand, have a mountain to climb if they have to even contemplate hopes of a second successive final in the ISL.