THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

FC Goa claim a 3-1 away win against NorthEast United

FC Goa's Reinaldo da Cruz Oliveira celebrating his goal
FC Goa's Reinaldo da Cruz Oliveira celebrating his goal

Photo courtesy: FC Goa

FC Goa got their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign back on track with an emphatic 3-1 victory over NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.

Following Sunday’s heavy defeat to Chennaiyin FC, Zico introduced as many as five new players to his Starting XI. In a tactical reshuffle, in came Jonathan Lucca, CS Sabeeth and Bikramjit Singh for Mandar Rao Dessai, Romeo Fernandes and Denson Devadas; whereas Luciano Sabrosa replaced injured marquee player Lúcio in defence. Laxmikanth Kattimani took over as the custodian in between the nets from Elinton Andrade.

The game got off to a frantic start as both sides looked to exploit each other’s defensive frailties and went in search of the early goal.

It was NorthEast United who took the lead in the 12th minute. Sanju Pradhan, who looked lively all night with his silky footwork and speed sold Debabrata Roy the perfect dummy before finding Francis Dadzie on the back post with his cross. The Ghanian’s neatly placed header across goal found the top corner of Kattimani’s net.

With a packed stadium roaring the home side on, César Farías’ side went in search of a second goal with Pradhan proving the biggest threat on the right hand side.

But with 28 minutes on the clock, it was FC Goa who found the back of the net to level things up. Goa broke away on the counter with Lucca who found Sabeeth on the wing. His cut back into the middle found Jofre who laid off the ball for Lucca to finish with aplomb. Lucca’s curling effort from the edge of the box left the keeper rooted to his spot.

Straight away from the kick-off, the Goan defence was very nearly caught napping as Diomansy Kamara jinxed his way through the entire Gaurs’ defence but stumbled at the final hurdle, as he failed to find the finish to match his run.

It would cost them dear as Goa ran up the other end and fired in their second goal in as many minutes. Reinaldo found the back of the net with an acrobatic finish when the ball fell kindly for him following a block on Jofre’s initial shot. This was the Brazilian’s second goal of the season following his effort in the opening win over Delhi Dynamos FC.

With the game meandering towards half time, FC Goa were denied a stonewall penalty. Jofre was brought down by the keeper in an attempt to get the ball but the referee waived away all protests.

The second half proved to be a one sided affair as Zico’s decision to field three central midfielders started to pay dividends. Léo Moura, Jofre and Lucca cut open NorthEast United’s defence time and again but sloppy finishing denied the visitors.

The first chance came in the 55th minute when Jofre put Reinaldo through on the left side. His cross behind the defence brushed past Sabeeth’s outstretched leg.

Then in the 64th minute Reinaldo found himself one on one with the keeper following a great dummy but he fired a tame shot to the keeper’s right which he saved with ease.

Two minutes later, Jofre missed a great chance to find some breathing space for the away team. Having found himself free on the right side his cheeky effort to chip the keeper with his weaker foot was read by the keeper.

Zico made his first substitution in the 67th minute when he introduced Mandar Rao Dessai for Jofre. The Spaniard was taken off to avoid a recurrence of his injury from Sunday night. And the coach’s decision bore fruit within a matter of minutes.

On the 70th minute mark, Léo Moura slipped in Mandar Rao Dessai in and his injection of pace allowed him to go one on one with the keeper. He knocked the ball past the keeper with the outside of his foot and gave Goa a much deserved two goal lead.

With ten minutes remaining, Léo Moura, who turned in a vintage performance drifted past two players on the right and found Mandar in the middle, whose curling effort struck the post. The final chance to make it 4-1 fell to Reinaldo. Debabrata Roy’s persistence was rewarded as he broke away with the ball and found Reinaldo in the box. But Reinaldo fired it well wide to Zico’s frustration.

The win takes FC Goa to 2nd in the table while NorthEast United stay rooted to the bottom of the table.