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Atlético de Kolkata score late to break Goan hearts

Atlético de Kolkata score late to break Goan hearts (Photo courtesy: FC Goa)

FC Goa went down 2-1 to Atlético de Kolkata in a do or die encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. Juan Belencoso opened the scoring in the first half and winger Mandar Rao Dessai scored his first goal of the campaign in the 80th minute to give the Goa faithful some hope. However, the Gaurs were caught on the counter late on as Stephen Pearson netted a late winner for Kolkata.

It was the away side that started the brighter of the two with Stephen Pearson missing a gilt edged chance in the opening stages. Pritam Kotal running down the right wing put in an inch perfect cross for Pearson whose weak first time effort trickled to Laxmikant Kattimani. Goa began to find their feet soon after and fashioned a chance of their own after a clever flick from Rafael Coelho found Joffre Mateu. The Spaniard was through on goal but attempted to lay the ball on for the onrushing Romeo Fernandes but was unsuccessful as the chance went begging.

Kolkata should have taken the lead in the 7th minute after a loose ball in the box fell to Javi Lara. Kattimani who looked like he was out of position raced back and got a leg in the way to prevent the Spaniard from getting on to the scoresheet. It was a massive let off for the Gaurs. Kattimani was called on in the 11th minute to make another save from a Lara shot and he obliged as he got down quickly to thwart the Spaniard again. The home side began to settle down as the half continued and were presented with a couple of chances in the first quarter but were unable to capitalise. Helder Postiga was lucky to stay on the pitch after a kick on Trindade Goncalves in the 16th minute. The Gaurs continued to apply pressure in a bid to attack the Kolkata defence.

Both teams began to dominate the game for brief periods as they looked for the opener. The home side received their first corner in the 26th minute and they almost took the lead after Joffre swung a corner to the far post. Coelho backtracked and attempted a first time looping shot but was unable to net. A couple of minutes later, the Gaurs found themselves trailing after a superb cross from Ruidas from the left was nodded in by an unmarked Belencoso at the far post to silence the Fatorda faithful.

With the Gaurs desperately needing a few goals, they began to pour forward in attack and it left them vulnerable at the back and the Bengal side looked to use this to their advantage. Romeo Fernandes received a long ball in the 37th minute and he burst forward, cut in and shot with his left foot but his shot was off target, much to the dismay of the crowd. Joffre was next to unleash from 25 yards out but he too was unable to hit the target. Postiga nearly got on to the scoresheet in the 41st minute but his header ricocheted off the post and was cleared to safety. The Gaurs made a late burst towards the end of the half to try and pull one back but their efforts went in vain as the Kolkata defence held firm for half-time.

The Gaurs got on to the front foot as soon as the second half commenced and almost pulled a goal back after Joffre’s cross to the far post just about evaded Rafael. The away side were content playing the ball from defence in the hope of catching the Gaurs on the counter. They almost managed to find a second goal in the 56th minute but Kattimani held on to a Postiga shot from 20 yards out. It was all Kolkata thereafter as they closed in on a second goal while the hosts played catch-up. Kolkata looked comfortable playing the ball around in midfield as they frustrated the hosts. Zico brought on Robin Singh and Raju Gaekwad in the 65th minute for Keenan Almeida and Debabrata Roy as he shifted to a 3-5-2 formation. In the 68th minute, Romeo unleashed a ferocious shot aimed at the far top corner which beat Debjit Majumder but unfortunately whisked just wide of the post. The home side should have been level in the 70th minute after a superb cross found Robin at the far post but his tame header was easily saved by Debjit. Julio Cesar was brought on for Trindade in the 75th minute as Zico committed more men forward.

The Gaurs continued to press the Kolkata defence and they were finally rewarded for it in the 80th minute after Mandar Rao Dessai got the ball on his left foot and smashed an effort past Debjit into the far bottom corner as Fatorda erupted. With the crowd egging the team on, they pushed forward with purpose in the hope of finding a likely winner. Rafael, Joffre and Raju had efforts from outside the box sail high as the Gaurs looked ominous going forward. The away side did catch Goa on the counter in the 87th minute but Pearson’s weak shot was stopped by Kattimani who was having a brilliant game. Kolkata did manage to catch FC Goa on the counter once again in injury time but Sameehg Doutie who came on as a substitute hit the bar much to the delight of the home fans. As the seconds flew by, FC Goa threw everything at their opponents but it was not to be as they were caught out on the counter once more and this time Stephen Pearson made no mistake tapping it past Kattimani who came forward in an attempt to thwart him. Not long later, the referee blew for full time.

FC Goa will travel to Delhi for their next encounter against the high flying Delhi Dynamos before returning to Goa to face Chennaiyin FC in a repeat of the 2015 finals.

(FC Goa Press Release)