FC Goa are well in control of their fate in the 2020-21 Indian Super League play-off race after their 2-1 win over Bengaluru at the Fatorda stadium on Sunday.
The result meant that Bengaluru FC will not finish in the top four for the first time in the ISL since their entry while Goa now have a three-point lead over play-off rivals Hyderabad and NorthEast United.
Having lost the likes of Mandar Rao Dessai, Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous and Jackichand Singh in the summer, it was always going to be a difficult year for FC Goa as they were undergoing a transition of sorts.
Most of all, they had to muster a replacement for their record-breaking goalscorer in Ferran Corominas. But the club overcame that challenge and now have a striker as clinical as Coro in Igor Angulo. It must be noted that most ISL clubs, including Bengaluru, have failed to rope in a clinical attacker.
Angulo scored his 13th goal in 18 games to open break the deadlock against Bengaluru in the 20th minute on Sunday, a goal that was created by Lenny's replacement in Glan Martins who dispossessed Erik Paartalu. The second strike was courtesy Alexander Romario's delicate set-up to let Redeem Tlang score his first goal in FC Goa colours in the 23rd minute.
When Angulo was injured for a bit, Jorge Ortiz also efficiently stepped up to the occasion and filled in his shoes. Alberto Noguera, too, impressed and has eight assists to his name. He could well have his ninth assist on Sunday had Angulo been able to hit the target against the onrushing Gurpreet Singh who did well to narrow down the angle in the second half.
Goa are reaping the benefits of finding another top notch striker in Angulo and have made smart moves in the market to prove themselves self-sufficient in their objectives for the season that also include their AFC Champions League engagements which will no doubt pose new challenges.
Coming back to the present scenario, the one area Goa has to do a lot better is their resolve at the back. Their defence has been leaky this season as they have struggled to keep more than two clean sheets - the last of which was nine games ago in the 3-0 win over Jamshedpur.
"After 19 games, it's normal that we learn about the high press. It's necessary to continue to improve because sometimes we have problems in defence," admitted FC Goa coach Juan Ferrando post the Bengaluru win.
If Goa do qualify for the play-offs, this factor could make a lot of difference. Going by Sunday's win as well, it was not that Bengaluru didn't have a lot of chances. The JSW-owned side had their chances, especially in the first half. But then again, it came down to being clinical in front, something Goa has shown this season.
Bengaluru were not able to do much in the second half as they were pretty much outshadowed by the marauding Goan attack, particularly towards the end of the match, but one cannot ignore the fact that Goa need to be a lot more tight at the back.
Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh is also playing after a long time following his January move to Goa and the nerves can be seen in his game at times. But he also pulled off the splendid reaction save to deny Sunil Chhetri and will hope to improve with more game time.