When FC Goa played their first game against Qatar’s Al Rayyan on April 14, nobody gave them much of a chance. Yet the Indian club came out with a commendable 0-0 draw. On Monday, when Goa went up against them in the return leg, the expectations were just a bit higher, even hopeful of a win. All this because Goa had drawn against Al Wahda and restricted Iranian giants Persepolis to just a 2-1 win in the first leg. Even though FC Goa got a 4-0 thrashing vs Persepolis in the second leg, there was hope because that result was due to changes galore forced by suspensions, injuries, and keeping the last two games in mind.
FC Goa got a perfect start when Jorge Ortiz scored the opener in just the third minute. A long ball from Brandon Fernandes caught the Al Rayyan defence off guard and Ortiz made a perfect run behind the defence to get to the ball. The onrushing keeping tried to cover his goal but Ortiz’s outstretched touch took to his chest and rolled out, helping Ortiz poke the ball home before it could be cleared.
Dream start! Dream game! But… for an 89th minute equaliser. FC Goa had managed to frustrate Al Rayyan and were ever so close to a historic victory but just one lapse in concentration and it was all gone, reducing the FC Goa players to tears after the full time whistle. Abdulaziz Hatem was allowed way too much time and space on the left flank, which he used to deliver the ball into the box. Even though Dheeraj Singh got to it, he and centre-back James Donachie got into each other’s way, leading to the keeper spilling the ball and Ali Ferydoon slotted the ball into the back of the net.
It was a draw that felt like a loss to FC Goa and billions of Indians hoping for some ecstasy amid the gloominess of coronavirus pandemic across the country. However, to FC Goa’s credit, it is their performance throughout this tournament that has created this window that fans were even hoping for a win against the giants of Qatar football.
There are quite a few positives for FC Goa to take from the game, the first being their comfort on the ball. Juan Ferrando wants his team to play possession-based football. Even though the team has not had the lion’s share of possession in the tournament, they do look comfortable with the ball in their feet whenever they have it. There is no panic among the FC Goa to just clear the ball away but they look like they have a plan and they know what they want to be doing on the field. Against teams of such calibre, it is refreshing to see how much clarity FC Goa have on the pitch.
Ortiz was a start throughout the match! Not only did he score the goal, his tireless running and vision to create was crucial for FC Goa whenever they moved forward. Ortiz has completely justified Ferrando’s trust in him with the Spanish coach leaving out striker Igor Angulo.
Seriton Fernandes was a tormentor for Al Rayyan on the right. Not only did he keep shape and defended at the back, his runs up ahead caught Al Rayyan out a number of time with the Qatari side finding it tough to deal with him.
Last but not the least Dheeraj, despite that mistake leading to the goal, was once again brilliant. He stopped six of Al Rayyan’s shot on target including a massive stage in stoppage time that ensured FC Goa got at least a point out of the match.
Here is what Juan Ferrando said in the post-match press conference:
It is of course difficult when you lose in the last minute but the truth is we play against a very good teams. It’s a pleasure to play against Persepolis, Al Wahda and Al Rayyan because these teams play football. Okay some mistakes, it’s very important to control them. Today’s game was very important for us because you know in India, the situation is very difficult and we were thinking, if we win, may be it’s a good moment for Indian people, it’s very difficult for players, they were talking about playing for India. I know about these difficult moments. But in the minute, it’s football, one mistake in transition and it’s alright. It’s necessary for me to tell the players they did a great job. Of course we need to improve. We have one more opportunity next against Al Wahda, I am now thinking about the next game. Lot of injuries, it is difficult to prepare the squad and the line-ups. The medical staff is working so hard at the moment, that is the truth.
The action for the goal in my opinion was in transition. I need to go back and see but I think it was a foul and then in this transition, from attack to defence, the team may not be ready. This is the difference between teams in India and for example, Al Rayyan. But it’s not possible to talk about mistake because I know my players and the goal in the last minute was a terrible moment for them. We will learn of course because one time (mistake) it’s okay but two times, no. But I think it’s good to play in this competition in Champions League because then we can talk about the problems and find solutions and practice that in the pitch.