It was as close to pure thrill as one could conjure. The first half was goalless but the last 35 minutes saw five goals coming in a flurry. After 89 minutes of regulation time, Goa literally had the ISL 2015 Trophy in their bag as they led 2-1. But Chennaiyin FC snatched the most unlikely win from the jaws of defeat and became the 2015 Hero ISL champions. With hardly any time left, Goa custodian Laxmikant Kattimani jumped high to collect a long ball but collided with his own colleague in the attempt. The ball brushed his gloves and found the net for an unfortunate own goal. Seconds later, Chennai’s tournament top-scorer Stiven Mendoza moved quickly from the left of the box and slotted the ball at the back of the net for a thrilling winner at stoppage time. The moment brought a stunning silence in the stands, packed mostly with home supporters, who had already gone into the celebratory mode. After scoring the winner, Mendoza peeled off his jersey from his body and ran to the fans even as Marco Materazzi’s men soaked themselves in a momentous victory.
The culmination of the Hero Indian Super League’s 2015 season was festive as every inch of space was occupied at Margaon’s Fatorda stadium. The home team blasted off to attack as the match got underway. In less than 10 seconds, FC Goa tested Chennai’s defense with a stunning shot. Chennai were quick to retaliate with Thoi Singh moving dangerously from right towards the Goa goal soon afterwards. However, the first real goal-scoring chance came Chennai’s way in the 17th minute, when Bruno Pelissari and Stiven Mendoza moved in tandem with a 1-2 with one another. However, Mendoza’s left-footer couldn’t find the mark. Goa didn’t relent and played in the Chennai half for long periods without success. Just after the thirty-minute mark, a brilliant move by Rafael Coelho almost gave Goa a 1-0 lead but a stunning recovery by Mailson Alves prevented the goal even after Chennai goalkeeper was passed by Coelho. In the 38th minute, it was Chennai’s turn, when Mendoza had another 1-2, this time with Jeje Lalpekhlua but Goa keeper blocked Mondoza’s effort. With so much action going on, the first half still ended goalless.
9 minutes into the second half, Goa conceded a penalty, when Pronay Halder brought down Stiven Mendoza inside the box and Bruno Pelissari converted on second attempt after his first shot was blocked by Kattimani. However, Chennai’s 1-0 lead lasted only 4 minutes because Goa found the equalizer in great style. Romeo Fernandes ran with the ball on right flank and sent a lovely low pass to substitute Thongkhosiem Haokip, who tapped it into the empty net. However, one minute later, Chennai had a huge chance to lead again, when Kattimani deliberately brought down Mendoza in the box and conceded another penalty. However, Kattimani thwarted Mendoza’s spot kick with a brilliant save and prevented the visitors from taking the 2-1 lead. In the 76th minute, Goa missed a chance of going in front themselves, when Haokip received a fine pass from Coelho but Chennai goalkeeper Edel made a great reflex save.
Until the 87th minute, the teams were level at 1-1 but suddenly Goa FC took 2-1 lead, when Joffre’s looping free-kick cleared the wall and beat Edel as well. The crowd erupted in a frenzy at what they thought was the end-of-the-match score. But the real match drama was to take place in the last 2-3 minutes before the buzzer. Chennaiyin FC found the lady luck smiling on them, when a long ball played into the Goa goal confused Kattimani and Pronay Halder. Finally, when Kattimani leaped up, he collided with Halder and as he tried to punch the ball away, all he could manage was to send the ball into his own goal. With that, the teams were level at 2-2. Then, when everyone thought that the match was headed into extra-time, Mendoza made the decisive difference. He moved quickly from the left side, dribbled past Gregory Arnolin and expertly deposited the ball beyond the reach of Kattimani to make it 3-2 in stoppage time. The hooter sounded almost immediately and Chennaiyin FC became the new champions of the Hero Indian Super League. Goa didn’t play all that bad and looked like lifting the trophy with a minute remaining on the clock. But Laxmikant Kattimani’s own goal set them back in the most unfortunate manner. While Chennai celebrated, Goans looked disappointed. They came too close before giving it all up.
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