Laxmikant Kattimani has a three-year contract with FC Goa. He is the skipper and the leader of the pack. In 12 games which he started in the Indian Super League (ISL), FC Goa have shipped in 23 goals. The Gaurs have not kept a single clean sheet when he is given a start.
In the six matches in which his deputy Naveen Kumar was given a chance, they leaked in five goals and had two clean sheets. Although in the last game, which was where he kept the second cleansheet, he did pick a straight red card and also Jamshedpur FC were down to ten inside the opening 10 minutes.
This only goes to suggest that FC Goa would surely miss the services of Naveen when they face Chennaiyin FC in the first leg of the play-offs in Goa.
Kattimani didn’t have the best starts to the ISL this year. In the very first game against Chennaiyin FC, he conceded a needless penalty and later was guilty of leaking in a cheap goal. Kattimani spilled the ball from Inigo Calderon's free-kick after FC Goa led by three goals for the first seventy minutes. Also in the 83rd minute, he brought down Jeje Lalpekhlua inside the box and Raphael Augusto converted from the spot to bring the difference back to just one goal.
That performance marred his confidence for the rest of the campaign.
Since then, it has only been downhill for the Goan goalkeeper. His blunders against Mumbai City FC in the two games, the goals scored by Bengaluru FC are some of the highlights that he would not like to see again.
Coach Sergio Lobera tried to instill confidence in his player by publicly hailing him.
“To me, Kattimani is the best goalkeeper in the league, with respect to other custodians. Goalkeepers are always highlighted for mistakes because they are in the spotlight,” said the former Las Palmas coach.
However, that ploy didn’t work. His morale continued to go down before Lobera finally opted to bring in a change.
This time around Kattimani would be afforded more protection from his defensive players. Lobera has fielded Pronay Halder lately and the India international is known for his tackling and interceptions in order to stop the opposition’s free-flowing attacks. Also they have Hugo Boumous, a player adept at keeping the ball and tracking back.
Earlier in the season, they would play with Brandon Fernandes in the starting line-up, a player known not to track back and help his defence. This would also put pressure on their full-backs as oppositions would often attack Goa depending on Brandon’s position on the wings.
“Brandon is a fantastic attacking player but we are aware that he doesn’t defend as much. Hence, we opted to attack from his side,” informed a coaching staff of one of the ISL franchises.
All eyes will be on Kattimani and his performance. Each time the ball goes towards him, FC Goa fans would have one hand on their heart hoping that no blunder is committed in a crucial tie. It’s time for him to prove the critics wrong and earn a place for the return leg as well.
With Naveen Kumar having agreed a move to Kerala Blasters next season, Kattimani has a chance to re-establish himself as the number one goalkeeper at the club this weekend.