FC Goa will look to play the best form of their possession-based football while Chennaiyin FC will, once again, depend on their trademark solid defensive setup as both teams battle it out in the second-leg of their Indian Super League semi-final clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
The first-leg ended 1-1 with Goa taking the lead through Manuel Lanzarote but Chennaiyin scored a crucial away goal after Anirudh Thapa found the equaliser in the second-half. The scorecard could’ve been a different one if both the teams had taken their chances, nevertheless, it was an entertaining game of football.
Lobera would be aware of the fact that Chennaiyin’s defence is one of the best in the league and he would need to find a way to breach the wall. In the first-leg, Mandar Rao Dessai proved to be a handful as his bursting runs on the wings kept Chennai’s defenders on their toes. Mandar’s speed is the key and his ability to consistently create chances for Corominas and Lanzarote has worked wonders for the team. Goa would bank on Mandar to maintain that consistency in the all-important clash.Goals have been the feature of FC Goa’s campaign this year and head coach Sergio Lobera will again bank on the attacking duo of Ferran Corominas and Lanzarote to get things moving for his team. Both players, hailing from Spain, have scored 31 of the team’s 42 goals this season with Corominas firing in 18 so far in the league and Lanzarote netting 13 from 18 games.
Goa’s strength is all about playing attacking football but they should be careful about their defence. After taking a lead in the first-leg, Goa’s defence was opened up at a crucial juncture that led to them conceding an away goal. However, Lobera said in the pre-match press conference that they would not change their style.
“We are the top goalscorers in the league. We have the highest goalscorer in the league as well. It is also true that our style of play has risks involved and we end up conceding. But I will be happy if we can win the match 3-2. We got that that last time around in Chennai.
“We need to play the way we know to play. That makes us stronger. We will go out there looking to win the game. In the last league game against Jamshedpur, we needed only a draw, but we went for the win,” Lobera said.
Goa’s goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani has had an inconsistent tournament so far, committing silly errors while also pulling off few decent saves. In the last game, he showed right temperament and put on a good show. Playing the season’s biggest match yet, Kattimani would like to continue the same form on Tuesday as well.
If the attacking combination of Corominas and Lanzarote did it for Goa then the performance of defensive midfield duo of Dhanpal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh has been vital for Chennaiyin this season. On Tuesday, they will have the tough task of keeping Goa’s attacking players at bay.
When asked about the kind of approach Chennai will take in the second-leg, coach Gregory was non-committal in his answer, and said the team’s focus will be on qualifying for the final.
“Our focus will be on qualifying for the final, whatever it takes. We worked exceptional hard the other night and we deserved the outcome of the game. I’m also disappointed that we didn’t take few clear-cut chances that would’ve put our team in a really good position coming into the second-leg. But it was a hard-earned draw. It’s always difficult to play against Goa, who keep the ball for a long periods of time and pass the ball well,” Gregory said.
Another aspect of Chennai’s game that has been the talking point for quite sometime is Jeje Lalpekhlua’s form. After having a good start to the league, the striker is now struggling to find the back of the net, experiencing a six-game goal-drought. Gregory, however, is not much concerned and gave his full support for the Mizoram forward. With the kind of goal-scoring reputation Jeje enjoys, Goa should make sure they don’t give too much of leeway to him.
The match might be played with contrasting style of football by both the teams. Goa will most likely dominate the early proceedings and try to find an early goal. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, will try their best to defend the barrage of attacks. Along with Dhanpal and Bikramjit, defenders Mailson Alves and Henrique Sereno will also have their task cut out. Chennaiyin do have the advantage of an away goal but it’s definitely not safe against a side like FC Goa.