ISL: Chennaiyin thrashes Goa 4-1 in first leg of playoffs
With goals from Lucian Goian, Anirudh Thapa, Eli Sabia and Lallianzuala Chhangte, Chennaiyin FC convincingly defeated FC Goa in the first leg of the first playoff.
Chennaiyin FC players celebrate after beating FC Goa 4-1 in the first leg of the first playoff of the Indian Super League (ISL).
Chennaiyin FC drew first blood in the Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs with a convincing 4-1 defeat of league topper FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday.
For a side that won its last five matches, scoring 21 goals, FC Goa started the game with an air of uncertainty. It lost possession from kick-off and conceded a corner even before the game was a minute old.
Chennaiyin did not give Goa room to settle down. With Hugo Boumous (illness) and Brandon Fernandes (niggle) unavailable, the onus was on Ferran Corominas to unlock a defence that stepped up for the occasion.
Short passes were intercepted and second-balls were won, forcing Goa – which had the lion's share of the possession – into tactical fouls to stop counter-attacks.
Match highlights | Chennaiyin vs Goa
The first shot on target came four minutes into the game. Lucian Goian's header off Rafael Crivellaro's corner was straight into Mohammad Nawaz's gloves.
With a 61 per cent passing accuracy in the first half, set-pieces and long balls were the home's side best bet on breaking the deadlock.
Eli Sabia's clearance in the 16th minute fell to Crivellaro in the other box, whose first-time volley was straight at Nawaz.
The visiting side's first proper attack of the night came in the 34th minute. Manvir Singh found Seriton Fernandes on the overlap and the defender's low shot was palmed away by a diving Vishal Kaith – the first time he was called into action.
With two minutes left in the half, Andre Schembri – who wriggled past his markers – was brought down outside the box by Seiminlen Doungel. Nerijus Valskis' free-kick curled around the wall but bounced off the post with Nawaz at full stretch.
Lallianzuala Chhangte - Goals, misses and everything in between
Goa continued to dominate possession in the second half but it was Chennaiyin that broke the deadlock. Nine minutes into the half, Crivellaro's cross into the box was met by Goian, whose header this time nestled into the net.
The second goal came from Edwin Vanspaul's industry when he won back the ball outside Goa's box, which allowed Jerry Lalrinzuala to tee up Anirudh Thapa, who unleashed a right-foot curler from outside the box into the top corner.
Anirudh Thapa scored a screamer to extend Chennaiyin's advantage in the second half.
Thapa, who scored at Goa two years ago in the playoffs in Chennaiyin's title-winning season, opened his account for the season in the side's most crucial game of the campaign.
With its tails up, Chennaiyin began to turn on the style. Its attackers found gaps in the Goan defence in the 77th minute to put the home side three goals up. Germanpreet Singh, who had come on for Edwin, found Valskis on the left and the striker's low cross across the face of the goal was poked home by Sabia.
Looking to reduce the deficit, Goa was forced to go on the attack – leaving it open to counter-attacks.
Also read | ISL: From Gregory to Coyle, Chennaiyin's tale of two halves
Two minutes after the third goal, Thapa found time and space inside the box to pick out Lallianzuala Chhangte and the Mizo winger rifled his shot into the net to bring the stadium to its feet.
With away goals rules in effect this season too, substitute Saviour Gama got one back for the visitor in the 85th minute. He reacted first to Goian's clearance and poked it past an outstretched Kaith.
Saviour Gama (centre) scored the away goal for Goa.
Chennaiyin started its season with an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Goa, but that was John Gregory's team. The only remaining links to that side were in the pre-game montage that showed the team's fall, and subsequent rise, in the league stage.
The team that damped Goa's hopes of a maiden league title is well and truly Owen Coyle's. It is the only side to breach the Goan defence more than twice this season and goes into the return leg, on March 7, with momentum on its side.