Super Cup: Chennai City defence 'overawed' by FC Goa, says Akbar Nawas

Ferran Corominas’ tendency to drop deep to receive the ball in between the defence and midfield gave FC Goa the numerical advantage in midfield against Chennai City FC.

FC Goa's captain Ferran Corominas (white) jumps to receive the ball before scoring the second goal against Chennai City FC.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

The turnout at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar was so poor that you could hear every instruction barked from the team’s technical staff. Chennai City’s young left-back Ajith Kumar, playing his first full professional season, was on the receiving end of an earful from one of Akbar Nawas’ deputies in the 3-0 Super Cup semifinals thrashing to FC Goa. 

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Ajith's first mistake came in the 11th minute as Jackichand Singh pulled Chennai City's left center back Tarif Akhand out of his position, which Ajith failed to read. This allowed Ferran Corominas to slip the ball into the space to find the overlapping run of the right-back Seriton Fernandes. Fortunately for Ajith, Gaurav Bora rushed in to get a touch from Seriton’s shot to send the ball behind for a corner.

“Don’t watch the ball, Ajith,” screamed someone from the Chennai City bench. “If Tarif is stepping out, you need to get behind in the space.”

Ajith had done well to recover in the quarterfinal win over Bengaluru FC against the speedy winger Udanta Singh. But, against Goa, the intelligent movement of Corominas and Zaidkrouch, and the pace of Jackichand’s runs behind him were too difficult to handle.

FC Goa's no. 9 Corominas drops deep to collect the ball in between Chennai City's midfield and defence.   -  Hotstar

 

Coach Nawas, however, is confident that the youngster will learn from this harrowing outing. “If you have more experience then you know what to do to get goal side. For players like Ajith Kumar, this will be in his memory bank and he will think how Jacki got past him every single time. I think he will improve. Covering goal side is safer than marking Jacki one against one or marking too near,” said Nawas.

Corominas struck twice in the first half and Nawas thinks his players showed too much respect to Goa in the opening 45 minutes and that caused the team’s downfall.

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A lot of focus leading into the last-four clash was about how Goa would deal with the threat of Chennai City's attacking trio of Pedro Manzi, Sandro Rodriguez and Nestor Gordillo. But, by sitting too deep in the first half, Chennai City's forwards didn't get a sniff at goal. The I-League champion had just two shots to Goa's nine in the opening half. 

Nawas admitted that Chennai City’s young Indian back-four, who were playing together for only the fourth time this season, were perhaps overawed by the opponents. Spanish centre-back Roberto Eslava, who was injured for the Super Cup, was a notable miss in defence.

“If we had a more experienced leader then he would have asked the player to come in, to stay or push up. Or we could have pushed the line higher up. In the I-league with Eslava, the line is always higher – near the halfway line of the pitch,” Nawas said.

Nawas had set up a midfield three of Sandro, Sriram and Charles Anandraj to counter Goa's three midfielders, but Corominas’ tendency to drop deep to receive the ball in between the defence and midfield gave Goa the numerical advantage in midfield.  

“We had three against three in midfield. But Coro dropped deep to make it four against three and our center backs couldn't handle that,” the coach said.