ISL: Chennaiyin FC rides on Jeje brace

Chennaiyin beats FC Goa 3-0 (aggregate 4-1) to set up final clash with Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava Stadium on March 17.

Jeje celebrates after scoring the first goal against FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday.   -  R. RAGU

 

Cometh the hour, cometh the men as Gregory Nelson and Jeje Lalpekhlua came up with stupendous performances as Chennaiyin FC decimated a listless FC Goa 3-0 (aggregate 4-1) in its return leg semifinal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here to storm into its second Indian Super League final.

Chennaiyin will now meet Bengaluru FC in the final on March 17 at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.

Nelson chipped in two wonderful crosses to set up Jeje and Dhanapal Ganesh to score as Chennaiyin FC proved to be no match for a clueless FC Goa. Jeje scored a brace, ending his barren run of seven matches, while Dhanapal scored one much to the delight of the home crowd.

Match centre

Nelson continued from where he left off in the first leg of the semifinal and didn't put a foot wrong. The Dutchman looked like a hungry tiger on the prowl and made mincemeat of any opposition that the Goans attempted. His touches were deft and crosses were timed with surgical precision.

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It was against the run of play that Chennaiyin scored its first goal. Nelson, from the left, sent a curling cross that found an unmarked Jeje inside the box. Jeje, who was guilty of missing a clear cut chance a couple of minutes earlier, made amends in a flash as he headed the ball past a stretching Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar.

 

Minutes later, the Goan defence was caught napping yet again. Nelson, taking a free kick on the left, found Dhanapal near the far post and the Chennai-boy evaded the goalmouth skirmish to put the ball inside the net, sending the crowd into a tizzy.

Dhanapal Ganesh (second in blue) doubled the Chennaiyin FC lead in the 29th minute.   -  R. RAGU

 

The twin strikes sent the confidence soaring among the men in blue as they continued to put pressure on the fragile Goan defence.

Goa, which had dominated the first 15 minutes of play with as many as six corners, tried to crawl back into the game but Karanjit Singh came up with gravity-defying acrobatics to keep Chennaiyin's lead intact. He was airborne and got his finger tips to the ball in no time as he denied thunderous strikes from Manuel Lanzarote and Mandar Rao Dessai.

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Chennaiyin didn't let the intensity lower any bit after the break as Nelson tested Naveen with an astounding effort. The Goa custodian managed to get his hands on the ball but Bikaramjit Singh and Raphael Augusto couldn't do any wonders on the rebound.

The game got a tad physical by the hour mark as three Goa players were booked for rough tackles as the pressure of equalising got the better of their composure.

Jeje tried to put the contest to bed in the 65th minute but his lob over the Goa goalkeeper, who was away from his line, missed the target by inches.

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Ahmed Jahouh tried to instill life into the Goan bench when he sent a trailblazer from a distance, but an agile Karanjit averted the damage with another remarkable save and parried the ball over the crossbar.

In the thick of things, Jeje fluffed another chance in the 85th minute as he took in a cross from Inigo Caledron, from the right flank, but sent the ball soaring.

It was just fitting when the diminutive striker from Mizoram scored Chennaiyin's third goal in the dying minutes when he found the net with ease after taking a cross from Jamie Gavilan.

Result: Chennaiyin FC 3 (Jeje Lalpakhlua 26, 90; Dhanapal Ganesh 29) bt FC Goa 0.

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