Can FC Goa finish with a flourish

FC Goa Head Coach Sergio Lobera during match 36 of the Hero Indian Super League 2018 ( ISL ) between FC Goa and Bengaluru FC held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa, India on the 22nd November 2018 Photo by: Faheem Hussain /SPORTZPICS for ISL

FC Goa fans are understandably excited ahead of the semi-final battles against Mumbai City FC in the Hero Indian Super League.

The Goan club has been on a fine run this season and fans are expecting much more than what they saw last year when they got knocked out in the semi-finals. Now, as they face Mumbai for a place in the final, there is hope and enthusiasm. Goa defeated Mumbai City 7-0 over two legs in the league stage, and will now be confident that they can improve on last season’s performance.

Already, in the league stage, there has been considerable progress. The Gaurs have conceded the second least amount of goals behind NorthEast United and have managed as many as eight clean sheets. They have shipped in only 20 goals in their 18 games this time around and there has been a visible shift in attempting to shore up the defence by coach Sergio Lobera. Goa’s attacking prowess does not need any reminding. They have scored 36 goals, the most by any team with Ferran Coromians leading the goal-scoring charts with 15 goals.

“Before this season, we had some problems in defence and I think we are improving now. Also, I think that it’s important to be regular in terms of the performances. I think we have achieved it. Teams go through different phases, but it’s a good thing that we have maintained a good balance throughout the season,” said Lobera. Pairing Mourtada Fall with Carlos Pena at the heart of the defence has proved to be a masterstroke by the Spanish coach with the pair forming one of the most formidable partnerships in the league.

At the left side of defence, Mandar Rao Desai has grown exponentially into his role. The youngster was converted into a makeshift left-back by Lobera last season and he has really made that role his own. On the right too, Seriton Fernandes has made giant strides.

While the back-four has forged a solid unit, Goa also have a safer pair of hands behind them to thank for the significant improvement in defence. Last season, custodian Laxmikant Kattimani made dreadful errors which resulted in goals.

However, a change in personnel in the Goa goal has worked wonders for Lobera. Young goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz’s impact has been terrific. Lobera also brought in the experienced Naveen Kumar and the Punjab-born custodian has proved to be an able deputy to Nawaz.

Credit needs to be given to Lobera for making the big moves to shore up the defence this season. The Spaniard’s philosophy has always been that the attack is the best form of defence. Now that the defence is equally solid, Goa have reasons to believe that they will end the season on an all-time high.

– Courtesy ISL Media
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