Chennaiyin FC thumped FC Goa 3-0 in the second leg of their second semi-final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday to set-up the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) title clash against Bengaluru FC.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua ended his seven-match scoring drought with a brace in the 26th and 90th minutes, while Dhanpal Ganesh scored in the 29th minute with a header to guide the former champions to a 3-0 win and 4-1 on aggregate. The first leg in Fatorda had ended 1-1.
At the beginning of the match though, Goa seemed the better team, creating chances one after other. In the 11th minute, Chennaiyin central defender Sereno Henrique was forced to slide and clear a drive from Hugo Boumous.
As the Goans moved forward in search of their crucial away goal, Ganesh brought down striker Ferran Corominas just in front of the 18-yard box, leading to a free-kick in the 13th minute but Manuel Lanzarote's left-footed kick towards the right post was palmed away by Karanjit Singh.
In the resulting corner, an unmarked Chinglensana Singh Konsham headed over a corner from Lanzarote.
Having come out unscathed in this phase, Chennaiyin began to put pressure on Goa with their counter-attacking game.
Midfielder Francisco Fernandes led a counter-attack on the right and his shot hit the hands of Narayan Das just outside the box, leading to a free-kick. Greogory Nelson' free-kick was headed over by Lalpekhlua in the 24th minute.
Couple of minutes later, an unmarked Jeje headed home a cross from Nelson from the left, beating visiting goalkeeper Naveen Kumar, who missed the last match due to an injury, from a close range to make it 1-0. It was Jeje's first goal since he scored against ATK in Kolkata on January 25.
Goa's defence was caught napping again in dealing with a cross on their right from Nelson in the 29th minute. Naveen misjudged it and Ganesh outjumped two visiting defenders to head it in, making it 2-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate for the tie.
These two quick-fire goals left Goa with a humongous task of turning the game around, needing at least three goals to win.
Goa captain Mandar Rao Desai had the chance to open his team's account on the day but his drive near the left post was kept away by Karanjit, who ensured that the hosts go to the half-time with a 2-0 lead.
As the second half began, Chennaiyin again looked threatening on the set-pieces. One brilliant chance fell to Raphael Augusto, who picked out a rebounded corner and went for a blazing shot which flew over the cross-bar.
Marked ferociously, Goan attackers Bouhmous and Corominas grew frustrated and earned a yellow card each after venting his ire on the referee.
Seeing his side not being able to create chances, Goa coach Sergion Lobera substituted defenders Narayan Das and Sergio Juste and midfielder Pranoy Halder, replacing them with defender Mohamed Ali, midfielder Brandon Fernandes and forward Markos Johannus in the 66th minute.
However, Chennaiyin continued to contain the Goans and at the other end the hosts made incisive forays in search of their third goal.
Naveen continued to struggle on the night as he failed to pouch a straight drive from Augusto only to gather the ball again to deny a Chennaiyin attacker.
Naveen's counterpart, Karanjit was impressive, denying a free-kick at the left post from Lanzarote in the 85th minute.
The game was put to bed after Jeje dodged past Ali just in front of the box to put the ball rolling in to the net near the left post in the 90th minute, drawing a huge roar from the 18,00-odd city fans as they entered the final for the second time.
(Abhishek Purohit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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