It would be fair to state that if one had to pick a winner with regards to the entertainment factor, FC Goa would win the competition by some distance. They have played some breathtaking attacking football with their Spanish contingent, namely Ferran Corominas, Manuel Lanzarote and Edu Bedia, being the key to it.
The issue is every team in the league will go through spells when they cannot find the back of the net partly because of their own wastefulness in front of goal or failure to break down an opposition. It is at this juncture that one’s greatest test lies.
To be fair to FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic, he shared his plans for FC Goa out in the open. He acknowledged that Sergio Lobera’s side have some special players who they need to keep a check on.
“It will challenge and test us to not give them many chances on goal. We’ll do everything to stop FC Goa from scoring. The best way to keep zero (clean-sheet) means to have good attack and keep your opponent far away from goal,” said the Serbian in his pre-match address to the media.
And they successfully executed it. One may claim that Goa did create at least two good scoring opportunities and another couple after the break, but it was one of those days when their attack wasn’t at its best.
The reason being Edu Bedia wasn’t allowed to dictate proceedings from the middle of the park. Ahmed Jahouh was lucky not to have been sent-off for his incessant challenges and Lanzarote didn’t get the space and time he so cherishes.
Marcos Tebar, who is among the best defensive midfielders in the ISL this season, once again put in a dominant display as he didn’t allow Goa to get into a rhythm. Resurgent Adil Khan made his physicality count as Goa struggled to pass the ball in the manner they are accustomed to.
Goa may have had more possession in the game but it was Pune who had almost double the number of shots on target (seven to four). It may sound a bit repetitive but the Indian contingent at FC Goa hasn’t impressed one bit. Neither Mandar Dessai nor Brandon Fernandes did enough in attack while their defence was left exposed on several occasions.
Laxmikant Kattimani continues to be a liability as are the likes of Seriton Fernandes, Mohammed Ali and Narayan Das. If even two or three foreign players in their team have an off day, Goa do not have the personnel to keep a strong attack at bay.
The manner in which they conceded the second goal was comical with as many as three defenders and a goalkeeper not being able to clear their lines.
Popovic deserves special praise and it would be fair to state that he has a plan for almost every team. He almost derailed Bengaluru FC, downed Jamshedpur FC - a team known for their miserly defence and stopped Goa from scoring for the very first time and that too on their home soil.
The former Real Zaragoza coach has certainly impressed with his meticulous planning.