Chennaiyin FC dismantled FC Goa on its way to a 4-1 win in the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) playoff semifinal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.
After a stalemate in the first half, Chennaiyin went up 4-0 through goals from Lucian Goian, Anirudh Thapa, Eli Sabia and Lallianzuala Chhangte. Substitute Savior Gama scored a crucial away goal late in the game to give the visitor some hope for the second leg.
Here are Sportstar’s major talking points from the game.
1. Chennaiyin’s Indian players step up
Chennaiyin needed to make up for some sloppy showing in the first half and the team was lifted by Goian’s opening goal before the Indian players punished Goa. Thapa put in a tireless shift in central midfield alongside Edwin Vanspaul, who won the ball in midfield and initiated the move leading to his partner’s goal.
Afforded space, Thapa took the invitation and scored with a strike from distance. Chhangte, who along with Thapa, covered the most distance in the game, capping his evening off by smashing in Chennaiyin's fourth goal. Right-back Laldinlian Ralte also continued his impressive season, while substitute Germanpreet Singh played his part in Sabia’s goal.
2. Boumous, Brandon setback
Goa was rocked before the start of the game through illness and injury to influential attackers Hugo Boumous and Brandon Fernandes. Boumous, who has 11 goals and 10 assists this season, and Brandon, who is deadly from set-pieces, were missed on the pitch.
Boumous has been sensational in the final stretch of Goa’s run to the playoffs. His dribbling and direct attacking approach could have helped unlock Chennaiyin’s defence in the first half. Edu Bedia, a key attacking midfielder in the setup, was also missing through personal reasons but is expected to be back for the second leg. It remains to be seen what the extent of their setbacks is and if they will be available for next weekend.
3. Goa out of ideas, out of steam
Manvir Singh and Seminilen Doungel were the replacements for Brandon and Boumous in the line-up and they failed to make the desired impact. Manvir was making his first start in 12 matches, coming back on December 1, 2019, against Kerala Blasters. The attacker was used as a target man, while top-scorer Ferran Corominas had to drop deep to help create chances.
It must also be noted that Goa last played a competitive game 10 days ago against Jamshedpur FC. Goa’s spine of Corominas, Lenny Rodrigues, Ahmed Jahouh, Carlos Pena and Mourtada Fall, who are all in the wrong side of 30, struggled to keep up with Chennaiyin’s intensity. Meanwhile, Chennaiyin played its third match in the space of eight days and appeared to infuse more energy in the second half when the scoreline was still 0-0.
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