FC Goa come from behind to beat struggling NorthEast United
FC Goa got their Hero ISL campaign back on track with an emphatic 3-1 victory over NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.
Following Sunday’s heavy defeat to Chennaiyin FC, Zico introduced as many as five new faces 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 the marquee player, Lucio in defence who was sidelined through injury. 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 North East 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. The goal being the first instance in which FC Goa’s defences were breached by North East United in open play in two seasons of ISL.
With a packed stadium roaring them on, Cesar Farias’ 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 kickoff, the Goan defence were 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.
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. Leo Moura, Jofre and Lucca cut open North East United’s defences time and again but sloppy finishing meant that the goals were limited to just the three.
The first chance came in the 55th minute when Jofre puts 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 Madar Rao Dessai for Jofre. The Spaniard taken off to avoid a recurrence of his injury fromSunday night. And the coach’s decision bore fruit within a matter of minutes.
On the 70th minute mark, Leo Moura slipped in 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.
It could have been more but for some slack finishing and terrible luck. With ten minutes remaining, Leo 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 he fired wide much when it seemed easier to score, much to Zico’s frustration.
Ultimately it mattered not, as FC Goa ran out comfortable winners and looked more like the team the nation has become accustomed to seeing, with strong attacking intent and excellent ability to penetrate defences. The win takes Goa to second in the table while North East United stay rooted to the bottom of the table.
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