Starting with the good, it was an exhibition of attacking football on display on offer from both sides in the first period, especially from the hosts.
Sergio Lobera’s men have been a joy to watch at times in the ISL this year and they showed further glimpse of their attacking prowess on Sunday. With the wingbacks in Seriton Fernandes and Mandar Rao bombing forward at every possible opportunity, Goa were on the front foot from the very go despite Pune City’s high press.
Goa’s threat came from every angle with the wingbacks providing the width while winger Jackichand Singh was electric on the left-side. Through the centre, Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh were the orchestrators, feeding the likes of Ferran Corominas and Edu Bedia at every opportunity to set up sweeping attacking moves from all sides of the pitch.
With Goa’s attack looking like a poetry in motion, Corominas came to the fore with two excellently taken goals and as many assists. The Spaniard has a knack of finding pockets of space and once he starts running with ball towards goal, he can be very hard to stop. He was at the heart of every flowing Goan move on Sunday and could have well ended up with half a dozen goals on another day.
While Coro was sensational, Jackichand probably had his best game in Goa colours with the way he ran rings around Ashutosh Mehta throughout the night.
The visitors themselves left no holds barred in their attack with Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro being the primary protagonists. From the very start, interim coach Pradhyum Reddy had lined up the Stallions to fight fire with fire with the front men looking to press Goa high up the pitch.
That strategy opened up Pune’s defence every time Goa managed to beat the press and that was the case many a time on the night as Coro thrived in the empty spaces.
Still, the visitors refused to back down with their gambit which in the end proved to be a double-edged sword for them. While Alfaro and Marcelinho bagged goals and Pune carved out multiple opportunities, the four goals conceded by them was a heavy price to pray for that strategy.
Could Reddy have shut up shop and looked to play Goa on the counter from the very go? Perhaps. However, the way the home side were thriving in attack, even that strategy could have ended up as a futile attempt.
That brings us to the bad. Despite all the attacking ethos on display from both sides, the defences were equally bad with multiple individual mistakes galore.
While both Seriton and Mandar were excellent going forward, they kept leaving spaces behind them for Pune to exploit. Goa’s 18-year-old custodian Mohammad Nawaz might have pulled off an excellent save from Alfaro’s penalty in the second half but he should never have been beaten by the Uruguayan’s fierce shot on his near post in the first period.
For the first goal that Goa conceded, it was Seriton who had left acres of space for Robin Singh and Marcelinho to exploit.
Pune’s defence was as bad, if not worse. The highline employed by the back-four came back to bite the visitors twice with Coro springing the off-side trap with ease to score one goal and set up another one for Jackichand Singh.
The defence was also at fault for Coro’s second goal of the night after they failed to clear the ball following Jackichand’s cross.
Somewhere out there, Steve Coppell would have shrugged his shoulders in disgust given the manner in which both defences were bypassed with such ease throughout the night.
While ‘attack is the best form of defence’ has always been Lobera and Goa’s mantra, the cavalier fashion in which Pune conceded their goals will only serve to further exacerbate their woes as a win continues to elude them.
Finally, for the downright ugly, both Coro and Diego Carlos can have no complaints for the reckless challenges that led to their respective straight reds. The match had very well been done and dusted by the time both incidents occurred but their rush of blood has created problems for both the coaches.
For Goa, Coro’s absence due to suspension will be a big blow to their attacking threat while for Pune, Carlos’ loss will further compound the problems the Stallions currently face.
In the end, despite the end-to-end nature of the contest in the first period, it was Goa’s superior quality which shone through in the end and their margin of victory could very well have been greater if not for the finishing.
Pune are well and truly in the trenches now at the bottom of the table while FC Goa continue their flying start after a red-letter day where attacks prospered while defences went to sleep.