ISL: Goa v Chennaiyin a battle of defence against offence

Statistically and in terms of results, not much separate FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC.

Manuel Lanzarote is an integral player for FC Goa, which will bank on this Spaniard to make the difference against a rock-solid Chennaiyin defence.   -  M. Vedhan

There is little to separate between FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC ahead of the second semifinal of the Indian Super League here on Saturday. Chennaiyin finished second in the standings ahead of FC Goa by two points with both teams posting a win against each other in their respective away games. Even the overall head to head shows a close battle between the two sides with Chennaiyin having the edge 5-4.

While there might not be much to choose between them, the two sides have shown totally different styles of play. Goa has always played some attacking football throughout the tournament and managed to score 42 goals, most by any team so far this year while Chennaiyin has been less prolific in terms of goals but been a strong defensive side.

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On the flip side though, the team has also had the least amount of clean sheets with just two tied with Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United at the bottom and with the away goal rule introduced for the first time, it would be crucial not to concede.

However, FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera said the away goal rule wont prompt a change in tactics. “We understand the importance of the away goal, but this rule will not make us change our style of play. In the last game, even when a draw was enough, we went for the win”, said Lobera.

For Goa, the Spanish duo of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote have been in rampanging form through the league for the host slamming 30 goals with the former scoring 18. The duo have scored six goals more than what Chennaiyin has managed to score so far and the host would bet big on them on Saturday to deliver once again.

Chennaiyin started the season on a losing note against 2-3 to Goa at home but John Gregory’s men bounced back immediately after that game to put up some consistent performances to finish second in the table. 

Coach John Gregory spoke about his three foreigners (Henrique Sereno, Mailson Alves and Inigo Calderon) who provide his side with great stability at the back and the philosophy of building the team around the defense.

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“We are not as prolific as them but we are stronger defensively than Goa. They had two clean sheets and one was against a 10-man Jamshedpur side.”

At the end of the league stages, Chennaiyin had the best clean sheet record with seven games tied with Bengaluru FC, and Jamshedpur FC. More importantly, the 2015 champion has had good record on the road posting wins against Bengaluru, Pune and Goa away from home.

While not prolific, Chennaiyin also has had eleven players scoring for it and it is something Gregory feels should give his side an edge as the team is not dependent on few players. 

Come Saturday, it will be a good old battle between offense and defense to decide which side takes the advantage into the second leg two days later.

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