Goa: After a resilient draw against Al-Rayyan FC which not many football fans in India expected, FC Goa on Wednesday witnessed another test in the form of Al-Wahda from UAE.
The Gaurs had a chance in the 2nd minute itself, with young forward Ishan Pandita getting on the receiving end of a lovely through-ball into the box. Off balance, all he managed was to head it way wide of the goalpost.
Al Wahda were forced into an early substitution when in the 9th minute, their midfielder Abdulla Hamad crashed into Glan Martins, resulting in an injury so severe that he had to be stretchered off to the hospital. He was replaced by Mansor Alharbi. What followed was an evenly matched game with a lot of action in the midfield.
The Gaurs had a close shave in the 37th minute when the Al Wahda player Khalil broke all markers and put a shot through, but the determined keeper Dheeraj got a hand to it, and it luckily ricocheted off to an FC Goa player who cleared it away to safety.
Immediately on the counter, FC Goa had a chance but Seriton Fernandes managed to scoff it with a wayward shot, eventually cleared up by the Al Wahda keeper Mohamed Alshamsi with ease.
It was an end-to-end 45 minutes, with both sides having a good number of chances but failing to be clinical in the final third. Despite the 4 minutes of added time in the first half, the scoreline remained 0-0.
Back into business
A lot of action was witnessed in the 53rd minute, first with Ishan Pandita being substituted with Devendra Murgaokar. Soon after, FC Goa had the biggest chance of the game yet. A lot of confusion in the Al Wahda box resulted in a shot attempt which was partially saved by the keeper, only to land on Brandon’s feet. His instinctive shot ricocheted off the upright, denying Goa what would have been their first goal in the ACL.
There was a nervy moment in the 57th minute when Goa’s Ivan Gonzales brought down Ismaeil Matar in the box. The Al Wahda players were up in arms with the referee to award a penalty, but had to settle for a corner instead.
A quick short corner was taken, followed by an attempt on goal which Dheeraj confidently punched out for yet another corner. However, even this didn’t yield the UAE club their elusive first goal in this year’s campaign.
Through the hour mark, Al Wahda continued to test the FC Goa keeper, who was more than up for the challenge. In the 68th Minute, Devendra had a wonderful chance that started with a brilliant run from the opponent’s half but chose to pass at the last moment instead of going for a shot himself.
Another mix-up in the Al Wahda box in the 72nd minute with the keeper spilling a regulation save meant FC Goa had a good chance to score but yet again, there was no one to prod the ball into the net on the rebound.
In the 77th min, Al Wahda almost scored with a magnificent free kick taken directly, but Dheeraj was more than up for it again. On the counter, FC Goa had a chance which again went to waste. Glan Martins later took a shot, deflecting off an Al Wahda player, resulting in a corner.
The Gaurs had another scare in the 90th minute with an attacking shot on target from Al Wahda but were again rescued by the heroics of Dheeraj. This was followed by a blinder of a save by Dheeraj in the 94th minute.
A few more attacks followed suit but FC Goa remained resolute and managed to keep the scoreline at 0-0 at Full Time for the second consecutive match, earning them another very valuable point.
FC Goa Captain Edu Bedia was awarded the Player of the Match.
Post Match Press Conference
The Al Wahda Coach Henk Ten Cate was a very frustrated man at the press conference. “We had too many chances, which we couldn’t convert. This was a game we could and should have won. We can say it was good goalkeeping on the part of Goa, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have converted it. The humidity was high, the players need time to recover, but it’s the same case for all teams, so it cannot be an excuse. We are still in the competition with 4 more matches to be played, hopefully we can give a better account of ourselves.” he signed off.
Juan Ferrando on the other hand was pretty happy with the way his team played. “All the teams in the ACL are among the best in Asia. Most of the players including ours are in low battery (fatigued), yet we attacked pretty well today. Both teams had very good chances to win, but nobody could finish off with a goal. Our defending and goalkeeping has been very strong. Dheeraj is among the best keepers in the second gameweek, it’s almost like he’s superman. I’m not surprised with the result as I know my squad and what they are capable of.”
Asked whether he missed a finisher in the likes of Igor Angulo and Noguera, he said although they were missed, the choice of proceeding with a strong foreign defense was a conscious one, considering the injuries to their Indian defenders, and not wanting to concede a lot of goals.
In the next match between Al Rayyan and Persepolis, despite a dominant first half performance by Al Rayyan who went into the break with a goal advantage, Persepolis came back a renewed side in the second half to convincingly beat Al Rayyan 3-1 and showed the world why they have been ACL finalists multiple times in the past, while making a strong statement for this year’s title as well.
The result of this match meant FC Goa at the end of Matchday 2 is in the 2nd position on the Group E points table with 2 points, below table toppers Persepolis with 6 points.
The reporter would like to place on record, the assistance provided by Mr. Marcus Mergulhao, Sports Editor, TOI Goa and Mr. Nilanjan Datta, Director of Media from AIFF in securing access to cover these matches for NewsKarnataka.
Image courtesy: FC Goa Media Team
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