Odisha FC’s playoff dream took another hard hit as they suffered a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Chennaiyin FC in the 57th match of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season. Esmael Goncalves justified his promotion to the starting line-up with an early brace, which proved enough for the Marina Machans to grab all three points at the GMC Bambolim Stadium in Goa.
Chennaiyin FC started the game with a bang as they forced Odisha FC into generating mistakes. The Kalinga Warriors' high back-line also made it easy for a through ball to be played which let Esmael Goncalves clear on goal. However, the Guinean lashed it way over the crossbar and a golden opportunity slipped away.
Odisha FC resisted the pressure but Gaurav Bora’s mistake proved to be costly for them in the 15th minute. The defender got in front of an attempted long ball but couldn’t control it.
Esmael then raced into the box before curling the ball around Arshdeep Singh to break the deadlock. Bora’s night got worse as he brought down Anirudh Thapa near the right side of the 18-yard box to give away a naive penalty. Esmael calmly converted the resultant spot kick to notch up his brace and put Chennaiyin FC 2-0 up.
A rare chance fell Odisha FC's way in the 26th minute. But Shubham Sarangi failed to direct his header on target from Jerry Mawihmingthanga’s corner kick. The Kalinga Warriors fluffed an easier chance when Manuel Onwu mishit his shot after Jerry released him through on goal with a lovely flicked pass. But the first half ended tamely compared to the fiery start as both teams failed to deliver quality from set-pieces towards the end.
The Marina Machans got an early chance after the break as Lallianzuala Chhangte got at the end of Vishal Kaith’s long ball before passing it to Isma. However, the forward’s poor touch resulted in Chennaiyin FC missing out on the opportunity. Chhangte continued to test Odisha FC’s back-line as he saw a shot from the left-flank being deflected for a corner. Just three minutes later, Diego Mauricio gave the Juggernauts a life-line as he reduced his side's deficit.
Post that goal, Chennaiyin FC manager Csaba Laszlo went pragmatic as he brought on Deepak Tangri for Esmael Goncalves in the 66th minute. This saw the two-time ISL champions become more organized at the back as Odisha FC couldn’t create clear-cut chances despite looking lively in the build-up.
In the last few minutes of the game, Chennaiyin FC also got a couple of fantastic chances. Centre-back Eli Sabia could have done better with his header in the 80th minute, while Thoi Singh also fluffed a sitter after Chhangte set-up him through a counter-attacking move.
A few minutes later, Daniel Lalhlimpuia took a fine shot from the edge of the box but Vishal Kaith produced a superb save. In the end, Chennaiyin FC held onto the win as they moved up to the fifth spot in the points table.
ISL 2020-21, OFC vs CFC: Who was the Hero of the Match?
Chennaiyin FC’s boy-wonder, Anirudh Thapa, was named as the ‘Hero of the Match’ for a typical robust performance in the midfield. Thapa won the penalty through which the Marina Machans doubled their lead. He was brought down in the box after playing a nice one-two with Esmael Goncalves.
Besides his involvement in the second goal, the Dehradun-native made a lot of impressive runs throughout the game. The forward progression wasn’t just meant to take shots as he cleverly tried to come up with dummies to set up his teammates, who were in better positions. As usual, the 22-year-old did his defensive work too, with two interceptions and one tackle to his name.Published 14 Jan 2021, 06:45 IST