Chennai: In a battle between free-scoring FC Goa and the more restrained Chennaiyin FC, the latter triumphed 3-0 in the second leg of the semi-final to reach their second Indian Super League final with a 4-1 aggregate win on Tuesday.
A brace from Jeje Lalpekhlua (26th and 90th minute) and Dhanpal Ganesh’s exquisite header sealed the deal for John Gregory’s side who survived an onslaught of sorts from the visitors in the first 25 minutes. Chennaiyin FC will now take on Bengaluru FC in the final of the fourth edition on Saturday.
The match started with concerns over Jeje’s form in front of the goal (he had not scored for six games on the trot) and ended with the Indian forward breaking the drought in style.
The home fans were treated to some nervous moments early in the first half as the Gaurs kept pouring forward, with captain Mandar Rao Desai impressive down the left alongside Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote - the duo who had scored 31 of the team’s 42 goals this season coming into this match.
The home side were thankful to goalkeeper Karanjit Singh who made a slew of saves, from the numerous corners that the visitors forced and even from open play - the best of the lot being a close range save off Mandar in the 11th minute. Chinglansena Konsham, the Goa defender, had two good chances to put his game ahead as well but headed wide on both occasions.
Once Chennai survived that spell of play, Jeje had a golden chance in the 21st minute to put his side ahead but he headed a free kick over Kumar from close range - a chance that really had to be buried.
But he made amends in less than five minutes, diverting home a cross from the left flank at the near post and broke out in celebration in front of ecstatic fans who broke into chants of “Jeje, Jeje, Jeje!”
The noise reached delirium soon after as local boy Ganesh headed home from a free kick to put his side 2-0 ahead, completely against the run of play.
From then on it was a question of hanging on for CFC and the home team displayed impressive game management to see off the Gaurs, who, despite having more of the ball couldn’t force too many clear cut chances. Karanjit continued to thwart the odd foray forward and pulled off a fine save in the end off a Lanzarote free kick.
Jeje still had enough time to apply the icing on the cake, slotting past Kumar in the 90th minute after a defensive lapse by a tired Goa defence. In the end, it was a convincing win for Chennaiyin FC who will now attempt to win the title for the second time when they take on favourites BFC at the Kanteerava Stadium.