There is very little to separate the two teams as FC Goa host Chennaiyin FC in the second semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa, on Saturday.
The great rivals were all-square in the league stage as FC Goa scored a stunning 3-2 victory in their opening match in Chennai, scoring three goals in the first 45 minutes, while Chennaiyin FC fought back and levelled things out with a 1-0 victory in Goa.
The teams face each other knowing there has never been a draw between them. In the nine matches the two sides have played, Goa won four and Chennaiyin five, including the famous final in 2015.
A total of 35 goals have been scored in these encounters and if Goa’s head coach Sergio Lobera stays true to his style, then there will certainly be lots more entertainment.
“We understand the importance of the away goal, but this rule will not make us change our style of play. In the last game, even when a draw was enough, we went for the win. The team has to continue with the same mentality. In the last three games, we have great numbers in terms of the goals we’ve scored,” Lobera said during the pre-match media interaction.
Goa have scored 12 goals in the hat-trick of wins that they stitched up to enter the semi-finals, but the big change is that they have also conceded just once in 270 minutes of football.
Lobera said that while his attackers took away the plaudits, he knew the entire team was working hard offensively and defensively to perform better, and even praised his backline.
“If we don’t function as a team it is impossible to achieve success but the way football works is that the scorers make the headlines. For me, there are people within the team who work hard and it is their work that permits others to shine a little bit more. If only 11 players would have been good, I don’t think we would have been in the semi-finals,” said the Spanish coach.
Chennaiyin enter the game on a patchy run of just two wins in their last five games but are statistically one of the soundest travelling teams this season.
They have the most number of clean sheets in total (7) and have conceded the least amount of shots away from home (78). Their goals are also spread across the team over 11 players, unlike Goa, who are heavily reliant on Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote in that department (18 of the 22 home goals Goa have scored have come from these two players).
“It wasn’t accidental that we finished second in the league table. We have won in Goa and in Pune – but we also lost in the Northeast. The trend is that we tend to win the big must-win games. We’ve earned the right to come into the playoffs and now suddenly we start from scratch – the points will not come into play and it’s purely a semi-final and final and we’re ready for it,” said Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory.
The second leg will be played on March 13 in Chennai.