Chennai fall short in gritty battle with Goa

With a 2-0 win over Chennayin FC, courtesy two penalties in the second half in an otherwise evenly-matched battle in Chennai, Goa have moved to the top of the league table.

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M.S. Dhoni and actor Abhishek Bachchan watch the ISL proceedings between Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.   -  PTI

In a match where both teams defended well, Chennaiyin FC’s problem with conceding penalties made them lose 2-0 against FC Goa on Thursday. Both goals scored by Goa came off penalties conceded by Chennaiyin in the second half.

Goa has now leapfrogged FC Pune City in the top of the league table. With six games (including two home games) to go, Goa will have less trouble qualifying for the semis. Chennaiyin, placed fifth in the table, will look to rectify a few things as the tournament progresses. The primary concern will be their vulnerability in the penalty area.

The home team, which had conceded five penalties before this contest, gave away its sixth one when Bernard Mendy pushed Rafael Coelho in the goal box. Leonardo Moura, who took the penalty, blasted the ball to the top right corner of the net.

The home team’s desperate attempt to stop another goal ended in a failure in the 73rd minute. Rafael Coelho passed the ball to Thongkhosiem Haokip, who was perilously close to the goal. Both kicked the ball to each other before Rafael Coelho went for the goal. Mehrajuddin Wadoo, who tried to intercept, brushed the ball with his arm, and conceded Chennaiyin’s seventh penalty of the tournament.

Jonathan Lucca doubled Goa’s lead when he shot a low drive towards the extreme right of the net.

The Brazilians, who form an integral part of the Goa squad, were especially impressive. Jonathan Lucca defended and attacked well. He stifled the tournament’s top-scorer Stiven Mendoza in the first half. In the second, he manoeuvred through Chennaiyin’s defence and created a few goal scoring opportunities.

Goa made the most of their biggest strength — defence — and went with a 5-3-2 combination. They had played with a 4-2-3-1 formation in their previous match against Chennai, when they had got thrashed 4-0.

The home team, meanwhile, went ahead with a 4-4-2 combination. Marco Materazzi’s plan to pair Mendoza and Fikru did not go very well. Fikru was largely ineffective throughout the match and was substituted in the 72nd minute. Bruno Pelissari came onto the field amidst loud cheers but it was too late for him to do anything.

Khabra, who was back in the team after serving a two-match suspension, was sent off in the 89th minute. He slided rashly and attacked Moura’s leg. Both yelled at each other before the referee sent off Khabra for the second time in this tournament.

Narayan Das, Raju Gaikwad and Laxmikant Kattimani started for the visitors along with Rafael Coelho, who made his debut. Bernard Mendy and Dhanachandra Singh started for Chennaiyin FC.

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The result: Chennayin 0 - 2 FC Goa (Leo Moura 64, Jonatan Lucca 74)

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