Indian Super League 2019/20, FC Goa vs Chennaiyin FC: Hits and Flops
Free-scoring FC Goa opened their 2019-20 Indian Super League season with a convincing 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao. Goals from Len Doungel, Ferran Corominas and Carlos Pena were enough to drown a sluggish Chennaiyin FC side.
The defeat would be a massive wake-up call for Chennaiyin for not just conceding three goals but also for not even threatening the Goan defence when the home side was playing without three of their key foreign players in the form of Ahmed Jahouh, Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous.
In spite of the 3-0 scoreline that reflects a performance without any blemish, FC Goa were incredibly unlucky to not give away a penalty in the 12th minute when Seriton Fernandes put in an ill-timed tackle to bring down a pacy Dragos Firtulescu when the latter was through on goal. Even though Dragos and his teammates appealed vigorously for a penalty, referee Pranjal Banerjee and his assistants failed to see any problem with the tackle.
After that, it was a matter of one-way traffic as Goa rarely lost the ball and played around to test Chennaiyin's patience. When the visitors' focus eventually wilted, Len Doungel used a lucky deflection off Eli Sabia to roll the ball into the net and put his side ahead in the game in the 30th minute.
The game became even more one-sided in the second-half as Goa tripled their tally with goals from Ferran Corominas and defender Carlos Pena. While Coro's goal was set-up superbly by Manvir Singh and Jackichand Singh, a sumptuous free-kick from dead-ball specialist Brandon Fernandes coupled with some lacklustre defending saw Pena poking in a goal from close-range.
On the other hand, Chennaiyin failed to do much while going forward and were also guilty of not taking their half-chances. Apart from not using their physical advantage during set-pieces, the likes of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Andre Schembri couldn't properly test FC Goa's young custodian Mohammad Nawaz. Coach John Gregory's attempt to bring in some creativity by subbing in the duo of Nerijus Valskis and Rafael Crivellaro also didn't bear fruit for the former ISL champions as Goa defended stoutly.
In the end, Sergio Lobera's FC Goa saw out the game in clinical fashion even as youngsters Princeton Rebello and Saviour Gama were given an opportunity in the final few minutes.
Now, let us have a look at some players who impressed and some who didn't.
#Len Doungel (Hit)
The former Kerala Blasters forward had a brilliant debut game for FC Goa. Starting up front alongside Manvir Singh, the two youngsters combined superbly to trouble the indecisive Chennaiyin FC. It was the constant movement across the pitch that ensured that Chennaiyin couldn't really mark him properly.
Nimble feet and good choice of passes were eventually rewarded when a low cross from Manvir Singh took a lucky deflection off Eli Sabia's foot and landed perfectly for Doungel to slot in a goal. Predictably, Doungel guided the ball into the back of the net and put his side 1-0 ahead in the 30th minute to stamp Goa's ascendancy. The Manipuri was also brilliant with his work-rate as he often tracked back and helped his defence when Chennaiyin tried to counter-attack.
#Lucian Goian (Flop)
While one debutant had a fantastic game for FC Goa, Chennaiyin's captain Lucian Goian didn't have the best of games in his ISL career. In fact, it was a night to forget for Goian as he was often guilty of being in poor positions and putting in unnecessary tackles.
These two aspects were especially evident when Chennaiyin conceded their first goal. The night only got worse for him as he received a yellow card after pushing Coro to the ground. With several Chennaiyin FC fans hoping that he would emulate their former skipper Henrique Sereno by being an inspirational presence at the back, this was not the ideal start for the Romanian.
#Ferran Corominas (Hit)
Usually deployed as the main striker, 'Coro' as he is popularly known, had a fantastic game as FC Goa's No.10 on the night. With key players like Ahmed Jahouh, Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous not available for this fixture, the responsibility to bring out the best out of some talented yet young players was on Coro's shoulder and he did that and more with perfection.
Coro was predictably the main man for Goa and attracted the Chennaiyin FC defence with his ball-playing skills. He was especially superb with this through balls for Len Doungel, Manvir Singh and Jackichand Singh. Without fail, the goal-scoring machine also added a goal to his ever-increasing tally by casually putting away a pin-point cross from Jackichand in the 62nd minute.
#Lallianzuala Chhangte (Flop)
One of the big-ticket Indian signings in the off-season, there was a lot of excitement amongst the Chennaiyin faithful when Lallianzuala Chhangte signed on the dotted line. Although a move was imminent for Chhangte since he didn't extend his contract with his former club Delhi Dynamos (Now rechristened as Odisha FC), many believed that Chhangte could move to Europe with him being called up by Norwegian top-division side Viking FK for a trial.
Once that move fell through, Chennaiyin FC announcing Chhangte came up as a huge surprise but everyone was on the same page with one aspect - the 22-year-old's bustling pace and footwork.
Yet his first-ever game for Chennaiyin didn't go as many would have expected it to be. He was kept very quiet by Seriton Fernandes for the majority of the match and also didn't get the ball under his feet for long enough as the match dragged on. Further, his crosses for Andre Schembri and Dragos Firtulescu were overcooked. Both Chennaiyin and Chhangte would hope that the only way from here is upwards.
#Manvir Singh (Hit)
He didn't score a goal but Manvir Singh was heavily involved in the first two goals and that made him one of the best players on the pitch.
Starting upfront for a Goan side that was forced to play Coro in a deeper rule than usual, Manvir Singh gave it his all with some superb close control and threatening runs. The 23-year-old forward combined superbly with Len Doungel with the duo interchanging positions on a regular basis. If Doungel drifted wide, Manvir occupied a central position and when Doungel came in, Manvir drifted to the wings.
Manvir tested the Chennaiyin center-backs Eli Sabia and Lucian Goian with his fantastic dribbling and distribution to the likes of Mandar Rao Dessai and Jackichand Singh. He was also unlucky to not get his name on the scoresheet when he attempted a superb shot to the left of Chennaiyin's goalkeeper Vishal Kaith after finding some space in the middle.
Despite not getting a goal, this performance would have made National Team head coach Igor Stimac very happy as he was in attendance at the Fatorda Stadium.