Highly fancied Goa must overcome Chennaiyin in pursuit of elusive ISL trophy

Left: Noah Sadaoui, Source: ISL. Right: Rafael Crivellaro. Source: ISL

In the 2015 ISL Final at the Fatorda Stadium, FC Goa came close to lifting the ISL Trophy, only to have their hopes dashed by Steven Mendoza’s strike in the dying minutes. Since then, although they came close to silverware in the 2018-19 season and won the prestigious ISL Shield, they have never clinched the ISL Championship.

Almost nine years later, at the same venue, the two teams will clash again in a high-stakes game. The winner of this match will earn a spot in the semis against Mumbai City FC.

Both teams have had contrasting journeys to the ISL playoffs. FC Goa, considered one of the favourites to lift the ISL Shield this season, suffered a big stutter in the middle of the season, losing three consecutive games after a breezy start. However, they turned things around at the right time, remaining unbeaten in their last seven games in their bid to clinch the elusive ISL trophy.

Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, have scripted another remarkable comeback story under the tutelage of Owen Coyle. After a dismal run until mid-season, the Marina Machans won four of their last six games to secure their spot in the playoffs.

Having already thrashed Chennaiyin 4-1 in their last league fixture, Goa also boast a favourable head-to-head record, winning five of their last six meetings. Additionally, the Gaurs will seek to capitalise on home advantage and emerge triumphant in front of a raucous crowd.

Meanwhile, Chennaiyin will draw confidence from their remarkable record in the ISL playoffs, where they jointly hold the record, with Bengaluru FC, for the most number of wins (6).

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Moments from the last meeting between Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa. Source: ISL

Players to watch out for

All eyes will be on Noah Sadaoui, the Moroccan striker enjoying an incredible season with 10 goals. With his slick runs down the flanks, ability to cut inside, and goal-scoring prowess, he will be a menace for Chennaiyin’s backline. Sadaoui, who has scored four goals against Chennaiyin in the ISL, is in red-hot form, scoring four goals in the last three games, including a hat-trick against Hyderabad FC.

Rafael Crivellaro, the go-to man for the Marina Machans, has been one of the most reliable members for the Chennai-based team. The Brazilian midfielder could be threatening in aiding attacks and finding pockets of space from midfield. Against formidable Goa, Coyle will look to utilise Crivellaro to capitalise on set-piece opportunities, as the Brazilian has been one of the foremost dead-ball experts in the ISL. Crivellaro, with four goals and seven assists this season, will aim to guide Chennaiyin into the semis.


Played – 26

FC Goa – 15

Chennaiyin FC – 9

Draws – 2

Coaches’ Comments

Owen Coyle: “We know we go there, and a lot of people will perceive that we’re big, big underdogs for the game. That’s fine. That’s no problem. Obviously, we’re away from home, that’s fine. But already, when you go to the Salt Lake Stadium (in Kolkata) and win (against Mohun Bagan SG), you can win anywhere. So if these boys are at their very best, then we know it’s a game we can win, but very respectful of the quality that they will have.”

Manolo Marquez: “This is a tournament where you can play in Asian competition, but obviously now the Shield is over. Now it’s not about whether there is a slot or not to play in the continental competition. Now India only has two slots when India usually had three in the AFC. That’s because this is the competition that they removed, the team who won this playoff competition.”

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