ISL 2023/24 – Gaurs finally get their revenge on Chennaiyin

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At the Fatorda Stadium in Goa, FC Goa defeated Chennaiyin FC 2-1 in the second playoff game to go through to the 2023–24 ISL semifinals. There is always drama when these two teams play each other in a playoff match, and this one was no exception. Both teams had a flurry of chances to come out on top, but in the end, the Gaurs prevailed by a slim margin. In the semifinals, Manolo Marquez’s team will play Mumbai City FC.

The Marina Machans have always had a superior record versus the Gaurs in crucial games, from Mendoza’s heroics in the 2015 finals at the Fatorda to Anirudh Thapa’s incredible goal at the Marina Arena in the 2019-20 semi-finals. However, FC Goa has come out on top of Chennaiyin FC in the past few years, winning five of the last six league encounters, including a league double this year. However, when these two teams take the field, there is never a lack of entertainment since this matchup has often resulted in plenty of goals and amazing entertainment.

Marina Machans
Rafael Crivellaro was left out of the starting 11 for Chennaiyin FC

The decision by Owen Coyle to leave Brazilian midfielder Rafel Crivellaro out of the starting 11 made headlines even before the match kicked off. After being rested in the final league game, Debjit, Aakash Sangwan, and Ankit Mukherjee were back, together with Jordan Murray, Vincy Barretto, and Farukh Chaudhary. Regarding the Gaurs, Manolo Marquez opted to start the same lineup that faced Jamshedpur in the second-to-last league game, with Noah and Carlos Martinez up forward, McHugh and Borges in the midfield, and Odei Onaindia and Nim Dorjee at the back.

The game started with Rahim Ali giving away the ball cheaply in an extremely dangerous spot, giving the Gaurs the chance to take an early lead. However, Noah Sadaoui was unable to capitalize on it as his poor attempt ended up directly in Debjit’s gloves. In the ninth minute, Boris Singh made a dashing run forward to set up Noah, giving the Gaurs another chance, but Debjit did just enough to keep the scoreline intact. In the 20th minute, Farukh attempted to score from quite a distance outside the goal for Chennaiyin FC, but his effort went straight to Dheeraj.

The Gaurs had a double opportunity on goal in the 25th minute when Noah and Brandon fired shots, but Edwards and Cirkovic did just enough to prevent them all. Jordan Murray had a chance to score moments later, but his header from Shields’ cross landed right into Dheeraj’s palms. After around half an hour of play, Brandon made a wonderful through pass to bypass Chennaiyin’s high defensive line, but Noah Sadaoui was unable to keep his shot on goal again. A few moments later, Ryan Edwards expertly blocked Noah’s shot, denying Noah’s attempt.

With a stunning left-footed strike in the 36th minute, Noah Sadaoui broke the deadlock for the Gaurs, giving Debjit little chance. Carl McHugh did a fantastic job of intercepting the ball from Connor Shields and passing it to Noah, who gave the Gaurs the lead. Shields’ excellent through pass to Farukh gave the Marina Machans a chance to tie the score straight away, but Boris Singh tracked all the way back to keep the Gaurs ahead. Rahim Ali nearly gave Chennaiyin the lead with the following corner, but his header was cleared off the line.

ISL 2023/24 - Gaurs finally get their revenge on Chennaiyin DfEluMyGY9
Brandon Fernandes and Yasir celebrating after FC Goa’s second goal

The home team’s lead was doubled in the 45th minute thanks to a spectacular goal by Brandon Fernandes. After receiving the ball at the halfway line, the Goa captain advanced with it and struck well, leaving Debjit with no chance. The Chennaiyin goalie was unhappy with his defense for allowing Brandon so much room and time to take the shot. Just when the Gaurs were thinking about heading into the half-time break with a two-goal advantage, Lazar Cirkovic pulled one back for the Marina Machans. Dheeraj fumbled Ryan Edwards’ header at the far post from Aaaksh Sangwan’s corner, allowing Lazar to score a simple tap-in. With the hosts ahead, the first half concluded 2-1.

Jay Gupta received the first yellow card of the match shortly into the second half. The Marina Machans had a chance to tie the score two minutes into the second half, but Lazar Cirkovic’s header missed the target. Once again, Aakash Sangwan’s set-pieces were causing a great deal of trouble for the Gaurs’ defense. With a goal down, Owen Coyle changed the game plan quickly, substituting Rafael Crivellaro and Bikash Yumnam for Cirkovic and Farukh in the 55th minute.

The best opportunity for Chennaiyin to tie the score came about an hour into the match. Rahim found Vincy with a wonderful through pass, and Vincy did just enough to catch the keeper off the line and play the ball to Jordan Murray. However, the Australian striker was unable to take full advantage of the opportunity as he was unable to get his shot past the Gaurs’ defense. Following an injury to Jordan Murray, who was limping off, Owen Coyle made yet another double substitution. Vincy Barretto and Jordan Murray were replaced by Cristian Battocchio and Irfan Yadwad. Meanwhile, Manolo Marquez made a change as well, substituting Seriton Fernandes for Mohammed Yasir.

Gaurs
Boris Singh and Rahim Ali in action

The Marina Machans had a great opportunity to equalize in the 75th minute, falling just inches short of doing so. Once again, Aakash Sangwan produced a wonderful corner that Ryan Edwards headed goalwards. Odei Onaindia produced a spectacular clearance off the line as Dheeraj fumbled yet again. When just ten minutes were remaining, both managers made some substitutions: Udanta for Goa and Ninthoi for Chennaiyin. Chennaiyin was unable to get through the strong Goa defense despite their best efforts to equalize.

Manolo Marquez replaced Carlos Martinez with Spanish midfielder Borja Herrera to stabilize the match and control the last few minutes. At the end of the second half, six more minutes were added. Noah had a great chance to end the match a few minutes into stoppage time, but Debjit produced an incredible save to keep Chennaiyin in the contest. The Gaurs held more of the ball during stoppage time despite having the advantage, preventing Chennaiyin FC from scoring. Manolo Marquez’s team prevailed 2-1 in the end and has now progressed to the semifinals.

Read: ISL – Mumbai in advanced talks to sign Gaurs’ Brandon Fernandes

Owen Coyle would be extremely pleased with his team’s fighting spirit despite the loss, especially after they fell by two goals. Not just in this match, Chennaiyin FC has demonstrated incredible determination and will throughout the season to make it to the playoffs, something they have failed to achieve in the previous four seasons. For the next campaign, the Scottish head coach will aim to build on the positives of this season. Regarding the Gaurs, Manolo Marquez would undoubtedly be ecstatic about the victory, but he knows that the work is not yet over. They would play Mumbai City FC in the semi-finals, which are scheduled for April 24 and 29.


Follow IFTWC for more updates on Indian Football.

Shyam Sundar
Shyam Sundar
A youthful, diehard supporter of the Indian Football Team and Chennaiyin FC. Before the Lockdown, I didn't often watch Indian football! I occasionally kept up with the Blue Tigers, but not consistently. But ever since the lockdown, I've become really interested in Indian football. I may not have a background in journalism, but Indian football is something I am really passionate about.

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