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ISL: Chennaiyin FC seek defensive route past FC Goa into final

With a vital away goal in hand after a 1-1 away draw, Chennaiyin FC hold the advantage when they face FC Goa in the second-leg semi-final of the Indian Super League (ISL) on Tuesday.

football Updated: Mar 12, 2018 23:43 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Chennai
ISL,Indian Super League,Chennaiyin FC
Chennaiyin FC head into the second leg semi-final against FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Tuesday, with the advantage of having scored an away goal in the first leg -- which ended 1-1.(ISL / SPORTZPICS)

They did share goals leaked from the left side of their defence on Saturday night but Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa have little in common in how they approach a game of football. And it is unlikely to be different here on Tuesday night.

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Champions in 2015, the home team has the advantage of an away goal from the 1-1 first-leg semi-final draw meaning they are a clean sheet away from their second final in four years of the Indian Super League (ISL). “Keep a clean sheet; that’s our first priority,” said John Gregory, Chennaiyin FC coach here on Monday.

Seasoned coach

Gregory’s been in the football business for 46 years, 29 of them managing clubs in England, Israel and Kazakhstan, and he knows how difficult keeping a clean sheet would be against a team that loves to keep the ball and has scored 42 goals -- seven more than second-highest Bengaluru FC and nearly double of Chennayin FC’s 24 -- in the league phase. “I can sign on a piece of paper that we will win 3-2,” said FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera.

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They did that when the teams last met here, on November 19. FC Goa scored thrice with Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote giving early notice of their abilities. “I doubt they would have scored as many had they played for another team,” said Lobera.

But the way Chennaiyin FC came back showed the kind of potential they had under Gregory, 63, as coach. Since then, FC Goa have scored just once in over 180 minutes against Chennaiyin FC.

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In a match FC Goa want to win -- a high-scoring draw too could suffice but Lobera said he wouldn’t walk that route -- Gregory said his team will need defensive solidity.

Chennaiyin FC’s backline

With three foreign defenders in Inigo Calderon, who was at the receiving end of a bad tackle that left him struggling and Mandar Rao Desai going past him, Henrique Sereno, and Mailson Alves and Jerry Lalrinzuala as left-back, Chennaiyin FC successfully dealt with FC Goa’s greater attacking depth.

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They could have even come away with a win, like they did in Goa in the league phase, winning 1-0 through Calderon’s goal.

The backline was helped by the central midfield duo of Dhanpal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh, and even though it was Singh’s replacement Anirudh Thapa who scored the equaliser, Gregory is unlikely to change those six.

“For that goal, Thapa’s first touch was crucial and he sorted his feet out very quickly. But he has just turned 20 and has still got a long way to go,” said Gregory.

So, Chennaiyin FC are likely to stress on defensive discipline to grind out a result. FC Goa want to do that with their gung-ho attacking style, said Lobera, 41. The last semi-final of ISL4 seems full of interesting possibilities.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 19:16 IST