Chennaiyin FC 4 – FC Goa 1
1) Second Half Blitz Stuns Gaurs
For much of this fixture, the forward players of both sides struggled to make an impact. The scoreline at the halfway mark showed 0-0 and Owen Coyle must have had strong words in the dressing room because his players came out all guns blazing in the second half. The fear of the Fatorda where Goa have such a strong scoring record may have propelled them forward but no one would have anticipated the blitz that Chennaiyin went on in the space of twenty-five minutes. It was the skipper, Lucian Goian, again who set the ball rolling in a must-win encounter before Anirudh Thapa curled in a brilliant second from distance. With Goa chasing the game, Eli Sabiá and Lallianzuala Chhangte delivered the ultimate sucker-punches in the space of three minutes to ostensibly put the tie beyond the visitors. The Gaurs got a late goal that sets things up nicely for the reverse fixture, but it will need something really special to deny the Machans a spot in the final.
2) Crucial Absences Hurt Visitors Badly
Goa were dealt with cruel blows before kick-off with injuries to Hugo Boumous, arguably the most influential player in the league this season, and Brandon Fernandes. The player who would have taken Boumous’ spot in the starting lineup, Edu Bedia, was also absent due to a family emergency. With all their creative outlets missing, the Gaurs looked a shadow of themselves with Coro terribly isolated upfront. In stark contrast to Chennaiyin, the message in Goa’s dressing room at half-time would have been to hold on to the 0-0 scoreline. That is something that has proven to be an Achilles heel over the past few years however, and it was no surprise that they had no answers once the floodgates opened. Saviour Gama got his first goal for the club late on but only time will tell if he has lived up to his name. If there is a team in the league which can make up the deficit, especially at home, it is Goa but they will need Boumous and Fernandes to stand a chance.
Bengaluru FC 1 – ATK 0
3) Blues Content With One-Goal Lead
In a game with very few chances for either side, Bengaluru capitalised on an error from Arindam Bhattacharya to take the lead and then sat on it for the rest of the game. They only had 37.2% of possession, inviting ATK to attack them while looking for rare openings to add to their lead. They defended resolutely, as they always do, and denied ATK an away goal to take back with them to Kolkata. Sunil Chhetri returned to the starting lineup still looking a bit undercooked after an injury layoff, but he had a part of play in Deshorn Brown’s goal and his selection was justified in the end. Suresh Wangjam, who has had a very impressive campaign, impressed yet again and did a great job of limiting Michael Soosairaj’s impact on the right flank. The Blues clearly trust their defensive solidity to come to the fore yet again in the second leg, but will have to do without Nishu Kumar who picked up a red card after hauling Roy Krishna down in the closing minutes. With Albert Serrán picking up a knock as well, it may prove to be a difficult ask.
4) Lack Of Offensive Threat Will Worry ATK
ATK had only been to Bengaluru a week back to play a league fixture, managing to leave with a point after some heroics from Edu Garcia and Michael Soosairaj. There wasn’t much at stake in that match though, with both teams already assured of places in the semifinals. This game had shades of the earlier fixture in Kolkata on Christmas Day. On that occasion, it was ATK who sat on a one goal lead while defending resolutely, eventually winning 1-0. Bengaluru had zero shots on target that night from nine attempts and it was a similar story for the Kolkatan team’s frontline at the Kanteerava. For all the creative talent on the field, they were restricted to speculative shots, with only one finding the target. The familiar comforts at home should aid in their efforts but ATK will have to bring their A-game to the party. There aren’t many teams, if any, who are more adept at grinding results out than the defending champions.