Forced to shift base to another venue due to floods in their home city, Chhenaiyin FC were today crowned the Indian Super League champions after they beat FC Goa 3-2 in a drama-filled summit clash in which three goals were scored in the last four minutes here today.
In a befitting grand finale of the ISL second season which saw 186 goals scored in 60 matches as compared to 121 last year, the Chennaiyin vs Goa clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here saw as many as five goals, all of them coming in the second half in the edge-of-the-seat match.
Bruno Pelissari put Chennaiyin ahead in the 54th minute but Goa equalised within four minutes with Thongkhosiem Haokip finding the target. Joffre Gonzalez then put Goa ahead for the first time in the 87th minute in what looked like to be the winning goal.
But, under dramatic circumstances, Goa goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani conceded an own goal in the 90th minute to level the score before Chennaiyin striker Stiven Mendoza found the target in the first minute of the injury time to stun the home supporters of Goa.
The thrilling final, attended by the likes of Indian Test cricket team captain and Goa co-owner Virat Kohli and his actress girlfriend Anushka Sharma besides Chennaiyin owner Abhishek Bachchan and ISL Chairperson Nita Ambani, brought a climactic end to the season of the lucrative league.
For Chennaiyin, coached by Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi, the triumph was all the more remarkable as they had to shift to Pune for their semifinals first leg after their home venue was devastated by the floods.
They were also struggling in the early part of the league phase and needed four wins on the trot in their last four matches to qualify for the semifinals.
On the other hand, it was heartbreak for Goa who looked the most attacking side in the season under Brazilian legend Zico who is not expected to return for the next season.
The winners got richer by Rs 8 crore while the runners- team got Rs 4 crore. The two semi-final losers got Rs 1.5 crore each.
Colombian Mendoza, who continued with his fine form in the tournament today also, was later named as the best player of the tournament besides also winning the Golden Boot Award for scoring highest number of 13 goals. He though missed a penalty kick in the match.
Both the team, looking for their maiden title after they lost in the semifinals last year, started cautiously and had the honours shared equally in the barren first half.
The visitors made one change in the starting line up bringing in Pelissari in place of Elano Blumer. The home side fielded unchanged eleven that won against Delhi Dynamos in the semifinals.
They got an early jolt when striker Dudu Omagbemi got injured after an aerial duel with Mailson Alves and was taken to the hospital for treatment. He was replaced by Jonathan Lucca who played as a defensive midfielder, allowing Leo Moura to move further up along with Joffre.
Mendoza, who has been a threat to all opposition defence this season, was kept quiet for long before he made his presence in the 37th minute when he played a one-two with Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Mendoza dribbled past two rival defenders before letting go a firm left footer which keeper Kattimani did well to put out of danger.
Earlier, Kattimani did well to come out of his charge to push the ball out of danger before Mendoza could score after defender Bikramjit Singh failed to intercept it inside the box.
Goa made attacking moves but the alert Chennaiyin defence led by Bernard Mendy did well to cut off their moves even as they came close to scoring on a couple of occasions.
Goa coach Zico once again reverted their earlier formation, playing two strikers bringing in Thongkoisep Haokip in place of Leo Moura to create more impact upfront.
Mendoza, who looked dangerous whenever he had the ball, earned a penalty for his team in the 54th minute when Pronay Halder brought him down inside the box. Pelissari who took the penalty saw his shot saved by keeper Kattimani but the Brazilian made sure he scored the goal in the rebound.
Goa retaliated and restored parity in the 58th minute as Romeo Fernandes sent a cross into the Chennaiyin box for Thongkoisep Haokip to tap home. Indian Test cricket captain Virat Kohli was seen punching in the air to celebrate the goal by his team.
Minutes latter, Mendoza again earned a penalty for his team after he was brought down by keeper Kattimani. Mendoza took the penalty himself but his effort was saved by Kattimani who dived to his left to put the ball out.
Thereafter, the match came to alive as both the teams made attacking moves with Goa looking more threatening. They took the lead in the 88th minute. Joffre took a free kick and Rafael ducked himself and the ball took the deflection of Elano Blumer before going into the net in the 88th minute.
Chennaiyin fought back and restored parity in the 90th minute. From a move on the left, Mehrajuddin Wadoo’s looping ball inside the box saw Kattimani come off his line to punch it clear with Mendoza applying pressure. However, the ball took a touch of Kattimani’s hands before landing into the net.
With the match heading for penalty shoot out, Chennaiyin pocket dynamo Mendoza scored the winner in the injury time. Rane played the ball for Mendoza from the left. The Colombian striker chested it down and got the better of Arnolin and Lucio and took a shot which Kattimani could only get a touch but could not keep out.