Substitute Anirudh Thapa cancelled out Manuel Lanzarote’s second half opener in a tight contest at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda in the first leg of the semi-final between FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC. The Marina Machas will take an important away goal back to Chennai when they face off against the Gaurs on 13th March 2018 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
It was the home side that started the match on the front foot and it didn’t take them long to register their first chance. Mandar Rao Dessai evaded the challenge of two defenders down the left and crossed low towards Ferran Corominas but the Spaniard wasn’t able to direct the ball goalwards. Four minutes later, Edu Bedia almost threaded the ball through to an unmarked Mandar on the left but Mailson Alves read the play well and intercepted. At the other hand, the Marina Machas registered their first chance of the match after Francis Fernandes got past Narayan Das easily and crossed it low towards Jeje Lalpekhlua. The Mizo trapped the ball, turned and shot but the ball fizzed past across the face of goal with Laxmikant Kattimani beaten. The Gaurs had a good chance to take the lead in the 13th minute when Sergio Juste released Manuel Lanzarote with a sublime long ball. The Spaniard took the ball down beautifully but an advancing Karanjit Singh pushed him wide. However, he still managed to get a cross in towards Coro but the taller Mailson headed it away.
FC Goa had the bulk of the possession in the opening stages of this encounter and pressed forward at every opportunity. Coro had the chance to score the opener in the 28th minute when he cut in from the left. But his shot took a deflection and Karanjit was able to save it. Gregory Nelson’s trickery and Francis’ pace was causing the Gaurs’ defence some trouble but the tenacious Pronay Halder looked up for the challenge and prevented a number of Chennai’s forays forward. As the first half headed towards a close, Chinglensana Singh found himself in a good position inside the Chennai box. A corner from Lanzarote was hit towards Coro at the far post who sent the ball back into the centre of the box. Sana couldn’t connect well enough to direct the ball towards goal and the chance was lost. Next it was Nelson’s turn to trouble the defenders with a shot from an angle on the left. The ball however, went just wide of the far post. At the other end, Pronay turned Dhanpal Ganesh superbly, but looked to shoot from distance instead of playing an advancing Coro through. With time running out, neither side was able to break the deadlock before the break.
Chennaiyin came out all guns blazing in the second period and should have taken the lead twice within a minute after the restart but Kattimani made two excellent saves to deny Jeje and then got down low to stick a leg out to deny Gregory from a one on one position on the left. The Gaurs began to get back in the game as time ticked on and started to dominate the ball again. It didn’t take them long to finally break the deadlock when Mandar skipped past Inigo Calderon in the 64th minute and put a dangerous low ball into the box which landed at the feet of Edu. The midfielder allowed Coro to take possession and he shot it towards the far post. The ball was blocked on the line, but Lanzarote reacted quickest to poke it home from close range to send Fatorda into a frenzy. Despite their one goal lead though, the Gaurs continued to press the away side but Chennaiyin came right back into the game to take a massive advantage after Gregory caught the defence napping, ran through the midfield and passed it to substitute Anirudh Thapa on the right who took a touch and slotted it past Kattimani with ease. The Gaurs had it all to do after that as the Marina Machas had an all-important away goal.
The Gaurs were pushing hard to get back in front and as a result, took off Narayan Das for Brandon Fernandes and then brought on Mark Sifneos for Manuel Lanzarote. Sergio’s charges were pushing forward aggressively and received a free kick in a good position on the right deep into stoppage time. Edu stepped up to curl it towards Jahouh who got on to the end of it but couldn’t direct it back across the box as the referee called for full time immediately after.
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