Playing an away game at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, FC Goa assured themselves of a semifinal berth in Hero Indian Super League with a 3-1 victory over table toppers Chennaiyin FC. With 21 points from 13 matches, the Zico-coached team is right behind Chennai, who have 22 points from the same number of matches. For almost a month after the start of ISL, Goa were the league laggards but they have put up an exemplary performance over the last three weeks to emerge in the forefront. FC Goa’s fans back home have turned in large numbers to support in all the home games and firmly believed in the ability of their heroes. In yesterday’s game, the goals for Goa were scored by Romeo Fernandes in 23rd minute, Andre Santos in the 41st minute and Cezch striker Miroslav Slepicka in the 62nd minute. For Chennaiyin FC, Jean Maurice cut the margin by one goal in the stoppage time. Except for the first 10-15 minutes, the proceedings were totally controlled by Goa. It was one of those days, when Chennaiyin FC’s regular coach Marco Materazzi was not present and his team missed out on his invaluable advice during the match.
The match began with Chennai leading the attack on the Goa goal. Chennai made three changes in the starting line-up with Shilton Paul, Bruno Pelissari and Jayesh Rane coming in lieu of Bracigliano, Dhana and Balwant Singh. FC Goa did not alter their line-up for this match. Within 5 minutes of the start, Bruno Pelissari had the ball just outside the 18-yard box, from where he shot towards the right post. But the distant attempt gave enough time to the Goa goalkeeper Jan Seda for making a comfortable diving stop. In the 9th minute, Chennai launched another attack after Cristian Mendoza smartly got around a defender and struck a hard right footer to the goal but Goa goalkeeper flung himself full length to clear the ball for a corner. In the 16th minute, Andre Santos tried to slide a ball around Bernard Mendy’s legs and attempted to break into a forward run. Mendy, however, wrongfully brought the Brazilian down and earned a yellow card in the process. Mendonza also got the yellow card for bad behavior, when he entered into arguments with players. Chennai had another chance in 19th minute, when they earned a free kick but Pelissari’s shot went over the crossbar. Goa took the lead in the 26th minute, when Amiri’s scorching left-footer slipped out of Chennai goalkeeper’s fingers and the ball rebounded after hitting the woodwork in the path of Bruno Pelissari. The Goa striker passed it Romeo, who slotted the ball hard into the right bottom corner. The early goal brought speed into the game with Chennai trying for the equalizer and Goa attempting to enhance their lead. Chennai got a free kick in the 27th minute, when Goa’s Bikramjit Singh was served a Yellow Card but the chance went abegging. By this time Goa began playing with complete dominance and doubled their lead in the 41st minute, when Andre Santos scored for them from a nicely headed ball from Amiri that came to Miroslav Slepicka, who passed it Santos. The Goa striker entered the box and his left-footed shot was too hot for Shilton. The first session ended with Goa leading 2-0.
Chennai brought Balwant singh in place of the off-color Jayesh Rane, Bojan Djordjic came in place of the injured Djemba-Djemba and Jean-Eudes Maurice for Bruno Pelissari. It was a desperate attempt to change the tempo of the match but in the 62nd minute, Goa made it 3-0, when Miroslav Slepicka scored. It was another account of poor goalkeeping by Shilton, whose diving save off a shot from Narayan Das had gone straight to Slepicka and the Czech striker coolly tapped the ball into the goal. In the 80th minute, Chennai had a chance when Balwant got a good cross from Harmanjot Khabra inside the box but he could only produce a weak shot. It was proving to be a bad outing for Chennaiyin FC but they got a consolation goal in the injury time. Jean Maurice found an opportunity in dying moments, when he was able to slide the ball in between Jan Seda’s legs and the match ended 3-1 in Goa’s favor.
Now Goa and Chennai have one game each remaining but they are already in the semifinals. But they will try for a psychological advantage, when Chennaiyin FC play Delhi Dynamos at home on December 9 and Goa plays an away game at Kolkata against Atletico de Kolkata on December 10.