FC GOA put on a flawless display to beat Hero I-League 2018-19 champions Chennai City FC 3-0 in the first semi-final of the Hero Super Cup 2019 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. The result sends the Gaurs through to the final of the knockout tournament, where they will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between ATK and Chennaiyin FC.
The loss also brought an end to Chennai City’s brilliant run in the tournament, which saw them knock out FC Pune City and Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 champions Bengaluru FC.
Ferran Corominas scored from the penalty spot on the 26th minute to put Goa in front.
The Spaniard struck again nine minutes later to double the advantage.
Brandon Fernandes added his name to the score sheet to make it 3-0 on the 69th minute.
With Edu Bedia out with a suspension, Hugo Boumous was drafted into the FC Goa starting XI by head coach Sergio Lobera. Chennai City boss Akbar Nawas, on the other hand, made two changes to the team which started the quarter-final tie against Bengaluru FC. Charles Lourdusamy came in for the suspended Michael Regin in midfield, while Alexander Romario Jesuraj was handed a start in place of Ameerudeen Haja.
Goa asked early questions of the Chennai defence, with Jackichand Singh finding space down the right wing and making a nuisance of himself with his quick feet and unpredictable runs inside the box.
The Gaurs came out with a positive mindset and their quick silky passing pegged Chennai back, barely giving the Hero I-League 2018-19 champions a sniff of the ball. Seriton Fernandes and Zaid Krouch came close to scoring in the first 15 minutes. The former's shot at goal was deflected wide while Krouch's deflected shot from range needed a fingertip save from Chennai custodian Mauro Boerchio to stay out.
Goa kept on turning the screws and their dominance finally paid off on the 25th minute as Jacki found Ferran Corominas in the box. With the Spaniard's back turned towards the goal, it seemed the Chennai backline had enough time to position themselves to cut off the angles. However, Charles skipped the gun and clattered into Coro, leaving the referee with no choice but to point towards the spot. Boerchio denied Sunil Chhetri from the penalty spot in their last match, but no one seemed to have told Coro that, who calmly executed an audacious Panenka to beat the Italian.
Chennai City tried to up the ante to find a quick equaliser, but it was Goa who found the second goal. The Jacki-Coro partnership was at the centre of the move yet again. The Indian winger whipped in a cross from the right, which took a deflection off Sriram B. The ball kindly fell for Coro, who did extremely well to make the space for a shot and beat Boerchio again with a low angled shot.
The first half ended with the Gaurs holding a well-deserved two-goal advantage.
Chennai City began the second half on the front foot and threw numbers forward in search of a way back into the game. However, the Gaurs backline held strong to deny the Hero I-league side any room in the attacking third. Chennai’s attacking approach also opened up the game, leaving plenty of space at the back for Goa to exploit on the counter. One of these almost ended in Goa and Coro’s third goal of the night. Jacki bombed down the right flank before playing in a searching ball for Coro on the box. The Spaniard even managed to reach the ball on full stretch but couldn’t keep his effort on target.
Both teams continued creating half-chances as the game progressed past the hour-mark. Chennai were in desperate need for a goal and almost found one through Romario Jesus on the 66th minute. The nippy winger skipped past multiple challenges and pulled the trigger from 30-yards-out. Unfortunately for Chennai, the ball came off the crossbar.
Three minutes later, things got worse for Nawas and Co. Boumous received the ball in the midfield and set Brandon Fernandes free. The winger put on his afterburners, ran onto the through pass and calmly slotted it past Boerchio to make it 3-0 for Goa.
As expected from a team trailing by three-goals in a knockout tie, Chennai tried to throw the kitchen sink at Goa for the final 20 minutes plus added time, but did very little to worry the Goa defence. In fact, the gaping gaps in the Chennai defence allowed the Gaurs to break forward almost at will. Sergio Lobera’s men created ample opportunities to make the scoreline far more imposing, but a bit of bad luck, some last-ditch defending and a few terrific saves from Boerchio helped Chennai avoid any further blushes. The match ended 3-0 in Goa’s favour.
At the post-match press conference, Goa’s assistant coach Jesus Tato along with goal scorer Corominas were present to share their thoughts on the match. Talking about the performance of the players, Tato said,
"Before the game, we knew Chennai City are a team with a lot of potential. We outplayed them easily as the score can tell. But at the end of the day, it was the players who displayed it on the pitch. We really worked hard towards this game. I must give all the credit to the players."
Coro, who scored a brace on the night, got plenty of opportunities to score a hat-trick but missed out eventually. Asked if he was disappointed with not scoring a third, the Spaniard said,
"As a striker, you always want to score goals. Today I would have liked to score a hat-trick, but regardless of who scores, the most important thing is that the team wins. I will always do my best for the team."
From Chennai City’s end, Akbar Nawas had no qualms admitting that they were the second-best team on the night.
"I think the right word is overhauled. We gave them too much respect from the first half. We were too deep. This has got a lot to do with maturity and experience. FC Goa gave us a good footballing experience and we should really strive now to play the way they are playing," he stated.