The fourth game of the Indian Super League lived up to the expectations of the viewers and organizers alike. The Nehru stadium at Margao was as jam-packed as any European venue and the passionate Goans did not leave any stone unturned in the vociferous support for their team. It was a highly competitive encounter between two committed sides and the quality of football was not found wanting either. Except that the Goa crowd had to go back home disappointed, there were no minus points. With more such thrillers in coming days, ISL is sure to catch the fancy of the people. The 90 minutes of regulation time were full of engaging football even as Chennaiyin FC managed to edge past hosts Goa FC 2-1 in the first ISL match on Goan soil. India’s forward Balwant Singh stole the honor of becoming the Indian goal scorer in the tournament and did his franchise proud by consistently keeping his personal performance at an upper keel and that didn’t go unnoticed by Chennaiyin FC bosses. FC Goa reduced the deficit at a later stage but couldn’t find the equalizer because of the solid Chennaiyin defense. But both teams were evenly matched and despite Goa losing one game, they look like making good progress in ISL with so many matches still remaining.
The Abhishek Bachchan-MS Dhoni owned Chennaiyin FC made a spectacular start to their campaign in the ISL at Margao. As the game got underway after the kick-off, Goa began in attacking style to provide a lively start that immensely pleased the rapturous Margao crowd. Coached by the famous Brazilian star Zico, FC Goa functioned like a well-oiled machine from the very start. Portuguese star Edgar Marcelino led the early attacks from FC Goa with some precise passes with a huge emphasis on ball possession. Marcelino had an able support from the Marquee player Robert Pires, who didn’t show any sign of his advancing age. But to the credit of the Chennaiyin FC’s defense, they countered the Goan forwards admirably. It looked like the Chennai team was waiting for their time. After the half hour mark with the score reading 0-0, Marquee player Elano took advantage of a poor clearance from Goa and latched onto the ball to enter the box. He tried shooting into the goal but his blocked strike fell in front of Balwant Singh. It was a great moment for the Indian striker, whose powerful shot was initially blocked by the Goa goalkeeper’s leg but to his utter dismay, the ball looped past the helpless keeper into the goal. The 32nd minute goal put Chennaiyin FC 1-0 ahead and made Balwant singh the first Indian player in ISL to score a goal. Singh eventually went on to win the man-of-the-match award as well. Before the shocked Goans could react, Chennaiyin FC doubled their lead, when a foul was committed on the edge of the box ten minutes later. The ensuing free-kick was taken by Elano and the guy whipped up a brilliant curler of a kick that deceived the Goa Custodian and Chennaiyin FC took a 2-0 halftime lead in the match.
Goa came out with a renewed energy in the second half and just as they had dominated the Chennaiyin FC goal area at the start of the first half, they tried to invade the Chennaiyin FC defense once again. But Chennai had expected this and therefore their defenses were alert. The countered every move that the Goans made. The determined Goa side didn’t yield and finally got their reward in the 65th minute. After missing out on several chances, Goa’s defending duo of Youness Bengelloun and Gregory Arnolin made a superb move. On a pass from Bengelloun, Arnolin went ahead and tapped the ball into the goal from right flank. The goal brought a huge relief for the local crowd and also energized FC Goa to try for an equalizer. But despite their best efforts, FC Goa could not penetrate the Chennaiyin FC defense manned by former Manchester City defender Mikael Silvestre and Frenchman Bernard Mendy. Regardless, Goa did try even in the late stages. They got a corner kick in dying moments and local hero Clifford Miranda nearly scored a stunning goal. But Chennai goalkeeper Emiliano Bracigliano pulled off a breathtaking save to deny Randy Martins.
In the end, the thrilling encounter was highlighted by some first in the ISL. There was a first away goal by an Indian, first away win for a team, the first goal by a Marquee player and the first away goal in the inaugural Indian Super League.