FC Goa shot themselves into third position following their 3-0 victory over the Kerala Blasters. Having started the match three points behind the Blasters, Zico’s men ended the contest, swapping places with their opponents.
FC Goa start without Pires
The match was played in the iconic and picturesque Jawaharlal Nehru Satdium in Fatorda Stadium in Margao, Goa. With both teams looking to seal play-off places, the home side went into the fixture unchanged, still without their defensive stalwart Youness Bengelloun and team captain and marquee player Robert Pires. As for the Kerala Blasters, they made two changes to the side that triumphed over Athletico de Kolkata, with the most notable change being Australian Andrew Barisic who came in for Iain Hume.
FC Goa thwarted by David James
The match started off with both side playing a relatively tentative game for the first five minutes. However, proceedings heated up courtesy of a run by Tolgay Ozbey behind the Kerala defensive line. David James’ brilliance between the sticks, ensured a double save, first from Ozbey’s shot and then from Andre Santos.
These saves reinforced the universal truth- David James can still make top drawer saves. Having showcased his endurance and diving skills between the sticks, James further reinforced his value to his team, by making yet another instinctive save, when he kept out a header from midfielder Zohib Amiri. However, despite the former England international’s heroics, Zico’s men enjoyed more possession, with their goalkeeper Jan Seda relatively undisturbed.
The Goa faithful, known for their love for football, too got into the act, cheering and urging their team. Their motivation from the stands paid off, as the Blasters were once again on the back foot, doing their utmost best to fend off attacks. Twenty minutes into half time, an injury to Aussie Tolgay Ozbey forced an enraged Zico to bring on Czech Republic international Miroslav Slepicka. Little did the Goa crowd know that the injury to Ozbey would prove to be a blessing in disguise for the home team.
With half time fast approaching and neither of the teams succeeding to break the deadlock, F.C Goa’s Mandar Rao Desai came close, drawing David James out of the penalty box, only for his shot to be headed off the goal line by defender Gurwinder Singh. Zico’s frustrated and animated reaction on the touchline portrayed the story of the first half.
Second Half Action
Having concluded the first half in a stale mate, Kerala Blasters replaced Raphael Romey and Godwin Franco with local boy Milagres Gonsalves and Iain Hume respectively. However, despite the positive substitutions made by the away side, they still found themselves well short of possession and consequently on the back foot even as F.C. Goa midfielder Romeo Fernandes found his shot blocked by the evergreen David James.
With half an hour left to play, the Blasters made their third and final change by bringing on Michael Chopra for Andrew Berisic, in a bid to bolster their attacking options. Having made a host of positive and attacking substitutions, the Blasters found themselves lacking defensively, with Iain Hume playing almost as a right wing back.
FC Goa break through
Anticipating their opponent’s shortcomings in defence, Zico introduced Clifford Miranda to be the setup guy for Mandar Rao Desai. The substitution proved to be a master stoke, as F.C Goa found themselves in the lead just seconds after the change had been made. A free kick from Andre Santos, who had been relatively quiet all game, found its way to Miroslav Slepicka, who in turn guided the ball into the back of the net. Having won several accolades in his prime, Zico’s reaction on the touchline was almost as if he had won the World Cup.
Not willing to give up on the game, Michael Chopra and Iain Hume began a steady build up towards the Goa goal. The build up however, failed to bear fruit, and in return it was Andre Santos who found the back of the net for Goa to double their advantage. A lovely link up play with Clifford Miranda and Romeo Fernandes ensured a 2-0 advantage with a good part of 20 minutes left to play. Two goals in the span of five minutes, sounded the alarms for the away team. The game was well and truly over. However, the home side were not finished yet. Despite succumbing to a terrible cramp, David James could not be substituted, as all teh substitutions had already been made.
Things slowly got from bad to worse, as the home side won a free kick approximately 50 yards from goal. Andre Santos’ vicious free kick once again found its way to Miroslav Slepicka, as the big Czech striker scored on the second attempt, thus doubling his tally for the night.
Key matches coming up for Kerala and FC Goa
Following a negative result tonight, the Kerala Blasters will face off against Chennaiyin F.C at Kochi, an extremely important fixture for the home side, as a loss could very well derail their hopes of a playoff spot. As for F.C. Goa, Zico’s men entertain Northeast United at Fatorda the following week.
However, as of now, the 18000 odd F.C Goa faithful can celebrate the victory over their counterparts from the backwaters, a victory that has now taken them into the third position on the table.