FC Goa emerged as champions of the 2019 Hero Super Cup after they beat Chennaiyin 2-1 in a tense affair at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
Despite Goa being billed as the favourites to take home the crown, it was Chennaiyin, who started the game as the better of the two sides. Rafael Augusto, Anirudh Thapa and Dhanpal Ganesh controlled proceedings from midfield. As the game crossed the 20-minute mark, Chennaiyin started imposing bundles of pressure on the Goa defence. They would create three consecutive chances in a space of three minutes but could not make any of them count. The first would fall to Augusto, who’s effort from Thapa’s cutback was brilliantly blocked by Mourtada Fall, denying an almost certain goal.
From the resulting corner, defender Eli Sabia had a chance to break the deadlock but his fierce near-post shot was well saved by Mohammad Nawaz in goal. The young goalkeeper was given no respite as he had to prove his fine shot-stopping abilities when Ganesh’s header seemed destined for the far post. Given the constant onslaught of pressure, fans in the stadium were left bemused that Chennaiyin had not put themselves in the lead yet.
Slowly but steadily, Goa started gaining a foothold in the game and could have scored themselves if not for some questionable finishing from Jackichand Singh. The winger only managed to sky his effort after some clever work from Hugo Boumous down the wing. In the end, both sides went into the break without finding the back of the net.
However, that would change from the outset of the second half, as Goa drew first blood through their mercurial forward Corominas. After Thapa cheaply gave the ball away near the halfway line, Boumous drove towards Chenaiyin’s goal, before forcing Karanjit to make a save. However, the rebound fell perfectly to the Spaniard, who had the simple task of tapping the ball home.
Just as it seemed that Goa would run away with the tie, Chennaiyin were back level. Raphael Augusto pounced on a loose ball just outside the box, firing a shot which took a massive deflection to deceive Nawaz.
However, the Gaurs didn’t let the goal deter them as they would soon find themselves back in the lead. Corominas was once again at the heart of the action as he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and released Brandon with a perfectly weighted through-ball. The small-statured winger was quick on his feet as he beat Mailson Alves and Karanjit to slide the ball home – a truly remarkable goal.
As the match reached its final quarter, Goa could have sealed the tie when Boumous once again let Jackichand through. The winger had only Karanjit to beat but could not make the most of it. The rebound fell to Corominas, who was brought down inside the box. However, the referee waved away Goa’s claims of a penalty, instead pointing towards a goal-kick for Chennaiyin. Nevertheless, that would prove to be inconsequential as Goa held on till the final whistle to claim their first-ever Hero Super Cup trophy.
At the post-match press conference, the FC Goa head coach, Sergio Lobera was accompanied by striker Ferran Corominas. The boss went first and explained how his team deserved to win the title after such a successful season. “We could have won two trophies this season. But we won the admiration of all the people in India and that is really big. I think we were tactically better. We could and should have scored the third goal. Not doing that made it a little tough for us in the end,” he said.
“This is all because of our players. They have been great. If you look back, the history suggests we deserved a trophy for a long time now. I think we have got the acclaim from all people. We will now look to build on that. We will look to strengthen last season and look to do what is left next season,” he added.
The ecstatic Corominas echoed his manager’s claims and said, “I’m feeling really emotional right now. Behind this day is lots of hard work from all at the club and our families. I am feeling like I am about to cry. Playing with quality players like Edu (Bedia) makes my job easier. But at the end of the day as coach said, it is the team as a whole whose performance needs to be lauded.”
From Chennaiyin’s end, head coach, John Gregory expressed his thoughts on the match. He said, “My team gave everything. We are disappointed that we didn’t manage to win the game. I thought the first half, we played well and had good opportunities to score. But we didn’t take them. It is our fourth game in 10 days. I think it was pretty evident in the last 15 minutes or so that we had some really tired bodies on the field.”
“Congratulations to Goa. They are a team that just missed out on the Hero ISL, but they managed to get themselves a trophy. Sergio is not only a good coach but he also a good human being as well. We offer our congratulations to him, his staff and his players,” he added.