BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Chennaiyin FC scored once in each half through Kwame Karikari and that ended FC Goa’s last home match of ISL 9 on a disappointing note at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda on Thursday.
FC Goa needed to win to be in contention by finishing amongst the top six but the lads from Chennai despite not being streets ahead in terms of football of their rivals capitalised on the host's inability to create entertaining or threatening football.
Unlike in their previous home games, this time FC Goa let Chennaiyin FC take the lead when the game was seven minutes old through a move that started on the centre by German Julius Duker who found Vincy Barreto on the left and the last-named crossed the ball to Kwame who tweaked the ball in past a helpless FC Goa’s Dheeraj Singh.
FC Goa, as in the previous game against Mumbai City FC, laid their momentum on Noah Sadaoui who, at times, appeared unable to carry his team's ambitions in his arc.
Time and again, FC Goa tried to break through the Chennaiyin defence by trying to free Noah through, but, this evening, Chennaiyin keeper Samit Mitra left his goal in time to reach the ball before Noah.
Captain Brandon Fernandes was the first to test the Chennaiyin keeper in the 23rd minute when his shot from the top of the ball was punched away by Samik with ease.
Noah tried to create an attempt a minute later but this time too Samik’s call was louder.
Despite the presence of Iker Vallejo, Edu Bedia and Devendra Murgaonkar, FC Goa put their thrust on Noah but there was little the lad from the US could do with the Chennaiyin defence reading through their opponents' one-point ploy.
FC Goa tried their best and was closest to scoring in the first session during the last four minutes of the first half when they earned five corners - from the total eight in the first half - but the rival defence stood tall.
Pena must have had no mercy on his wards during the lemon break and it proved in the second minute of the second session when Noah, after trying tirelessly in the first half, chested a long through ball from Edu, balanced his steps and let go a rasping drive from the top of the box that beat Samik in the Chennaiyin FC goal, hands down.
The equalizer did not see the visitors raise their tempo but they waited for FC Goa to attack and surprise them on the counter, but both teams never really troubled each other's goalkeepers with their tepid tries.
As minutes ticked, FC Goa’s urgency to score grew as a win was all they needed to stay in contention to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition. However, unable to see the ball beyond Noah, the writing was clear and the inevitable happened in the 70th minute.
In a quick counter, Chennaiyin FC captain Anirudh Thapa who had an otherwise quiet evening was tripped by FC Goa keeper Dheeraj inside the box and the referee pointed to the dreaded spot for Kwame to step up and score what proved to be the match-winner.
FC Goa plays its last match against Bengaluru FC away and Odisha FC who has the same number of points as FC Goa plays bottom-placed North East United in their penultimate match tomorrow. The ball is now with their opponents.