FC Goa gave it its all in the dying minutes, even came close to taking the match away from Chennaiyin FC (CFC). In the end, however, it was the visiting team that had the last laugh.
Despite the 2-4 defeat to Goa in the second leg semifinal of an entertaining Indian Super League (ISL) contest at the Nehru Stadium here on Saturday, CFC progressed on better aggregate (6-5). With that, it reached its third final in six seasons.
AS IT HAPPENED
Down 0-2 in the first half and completely outplayed by the host, CFC regrouped wonderfully well to equalise in the second session. Goa made it a nervy finish with two quick goals from substitute Edu Bedia and Mourtada Fall in the 81st and 83rd minutes. With 11 minutes (including injury time) to the final whistle, the home team still needed two more goals to emerge triumphant on aggregate.
Goa applied immense pressure and had quite a few shots at goal, but CFC stood strong.
Goa seemed to had the bulk of the ball possession in the first half, and it ran circles around the visitor. Be it the long passes from Ahmed Jahouh or Brandon Fernandes from midfield, Goa created plenty of chances and came close to scoring, which made CFC look completely out of place.
Few minutes into the half, Goa rightly went ahead, after an own goal from CFC. A cross from the right from Brandon saw defender Lucian Goian unintentionally head it into his own net.
In the 21st minute, the host doubled the lead with a doughty header by Fall off a free kick by Brandon.
CFC reduced the margin, seven minutes into the second period, through Lallianzuala Chhangte, who turned in a rebound from the ‘keeper after a left-footed strike by Rafael Crivellaro.
Crivellaro was in the thick of things again as his corner kick saw striker Nerijus Valskis powerfully head one home. With that header, Valskis made it 14 goals for the season.
Goa continues to fail under pressure in the climactic phase. This is the fifth time it has lost in the playoffs in six editions, including in two finals.
CFC retained the XI it had in the first semifinal leg while Hugo Boumous and Brandon Fernandes returned to Goa's line-up. Boumous, however, had to be replaced in the 21st minute with an injury.
Prior to kick-off, Goa’s skipper Mandar Dessai received the league winner’s shield from Martin Bain, CEO of FSDL, for topping the league stages.
Chennaiyin FC's head coach Owen Coyle praised his team for a "remarkable achievement" and said the aim was now to bag the crown. At the post-match press conference here on Saturday, Coyle said "CFC has been the showcase team of the league. Now we have to win it (final)."
Coyle said he was annoyed that CFC played badly in the first and last 15 minutes of the match and "allowed the pressure to get to us." He faulted the Indian players who ran "helter-skelter" in the later stages of the match. "We need to learn management," Coyle opined.
Clifford Miranda, head coach of FC Goa, termed the season as "great". He said the team's primary objective was to top the table and get a berth in the AFC Champions League and he was happy that Goa was able to achieve it.
Miranda praised the players for never giving up till the end. "We created a lot of chances in the first half. We scored and missed a lot of chances in the second half. But that is football," he said.
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