In the 2017/18 season, the Indian Super League got its first taste of FC Goa’s version of organized chaos. The style, emphasized by their ever-willing nature to attack complemented by swift passing, slick movement off the ball and a sense of adventure saw the Gaurs light up the league with their goal-scoring exploits to begin the season.
However, all that was on the verge of collapse as 5-game winless streak threatened to derail their campaign.
FC Goa responded in the only way they could. Three wins on the trot and 12 goals in those 3 games helped shrug off all doubters.
A similar run of three games without a win saw the Gaurs’ season last time round come in jeopardy of falling apart. Sergio Lobera’s men, in their typical fashion, responded – winning 8 of their last 9 games, culminating in a runners-up finish and eventually winning the Super Cup.
The time for responding seems nigh yet again. Two losses in the last three games have brought a bit of pragmatism into the fold for the FC Goa faithful.
And into the home stretch
With the AFC Champions League spot up for grabs for the team which finishes at the top of the table in the ISL group stage, the intensity and fervor as the league enters its final stretch is palpitating.
And now with only a single point separating the top three, the competition for that coveted top spot is set for a nail-biting finish.
Ever since the start of the season, FC Goa has found itself amongst the top contenders. And their game against Kerala Blasters on the 25th of January will have a large bearing going into the home stretch.
“This is a kind of situation we all relish as players,” opined Carlos Pena ahead of the game. “There is an excitement all around about getting that top spot. It’s good for the league as a whole. We are in the midst of it. It’s thrilling.”
The last three games have yielded just three points for the Gaurs. However, with the full squad now available to Sergio Lobera as they take on the Blasters means that none would be foolhardy to expect FC Goa to be back to their fluent best.
“Nothing heals better than a win,” states club captain Mandar Rao Dessai. “It has been a bit tough for us in the recent games, but if you see clearly, we have not moved away from the blueprint. We are still creating a lot of chances to take all three points in each game and that is heartening.”
The game against the Blasters will see the return of Brandon Fernandes from suspension whilst Jackichand Singh is marked for a return from a slight niggle that kept him out of the game against ATK.
“I am itching to get back on to the pitch. It was tough for me to see my team play on the television set and have that paralysing feeling of not being able to do anything to change the game,” expresses Brandon. “On Saturday when we take to the pitch, I will play with a chip on my shoulder. In fact, I am confident I can say the same for each of the players in the dressing room.”
The third season in FC Goa colours has been the most for the boy from Benaulim as he became the Indian with highest number of assists in ISL history.
“It just goes to show the mentality of the side,” asserts his fellow wingman-in-crime, Jackichand Singh. “Each of the individuals in the set up plays for the team. I personally, am yet to get a goal for myself, but if you ask me, that’s not something that worries me. I will get worried the moment I stop getting into threatening areas or stop creating chances for my teammates.”
A big reason for hope as there can ever be is the presence of Ferran Corominas at the top of the FC Goa formation. The Spaniard looks ever young even at 37 – thumping in 8 goals in 10 games – leading Goa’s charge for the title one more time.
But true to his nature, it’s the number on the points’ table that concerns Coro rather than one to his name in the race for the Golden Boot.
“As I said at the beginning of the season, I am happy as long as my team wins,” reaffirms the talismanic Spaniard. “The goals only mean something to me if it helps my team get points from the games. Otherwise, they are empty stats.” The FC Goa way of responding to criticism or doubts has time and again seen the players come forth as a unit to dispel all fears for the FC Goa faithful. Nothing does that better than wins in football and it won’t be a surprise if they begin to put the finishing touches to what has already been a fruitful season with a win on Saturday.