On the eve of their encounter against Delhi Dynamos at the Capital’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa FC coach Zico had exuded confidence of a turnaround in the team’s fortunes. What was worrying him, though, was his team’s inability to convert half chances and create the spark to seize the momentum in crunch situations.
On Thursday, Zico and Goa FC found that spark, courtesy French defender Youness Bengelloun. The 31-year-old drilled two goals to leave Delhi gasping, and in the process grabbed the initiative from the opponents.
The first goal came in the 18th minute. It was all about seizing the moment that coach Zico had been harping on. Debabrata Das on the right flank, passed an absolute beauty to midfielder Peter Carvalho, whose effort was partially parried by goalkeeper Kristof van Hout. The rebound fell for Bengelloun, who drilled it home, past the diving Dutch giant. Goa were up 1-0. The second goal came in the 48th minute. Andre Santos sent a lovely ball into the box, where a calm Bengelloun headed it into the goal.
By now, the Dynamos were running out of ideas. Defence has been their only strong point going into the match. But a little after half time, the home team had already leaked two goals.
If Bengelloun’s twin assault was not enough, it was time for another giant to wake up from his slumber and open his account. Goa FC captain Robert Pires joined the onslaught, scoring from the penalty. By the 53rd minute it was 3-0. There was frantic celebrations in the Goan dug out. Zico too looked relieved and had a smile on his face. For Delhi, it was a point of no return.
The home crowd waited anxiously for their marquee player — 40-year-old Alessandro del Piero to turn up. As it turned out, he was relegated to the sidelines, watching his team slip into oblivion.
The final nail in the coffin came from their old nemesis — Australian Tolgay Ozbey. In their previous encounter, Tolgay had scored in extra time to hand Goa the winner. On Thursday he joined the party after a brilliant assist by Gabriel Fernandes, which helped him dodge past a weak Delhi defence to register yet another goal. The score now read 4-0 at the hour mark.
Delhi did score eventually, in the 73rd minute, after Dos Santos fired home another penalty. The celebrations were muted. Delhi were clearly reeling under the Goan onslaught.
“After the win, we are alive and kicking in this competition,” Zico said at the post match press conference. “We played aggressively, converted our chances, which created goal-scoring options for us.” It was a role reversal of sorts for Delhi. They are now at the bottom of the table. After the hammering they received on Thursday night, the hosts have much to worry about. A marquee player fighting indifferent form and fitness, a leaky defence, an offence that is bereft of ideas, and lastly the inability to convert the stray half chances they got in the match.
Today’s match: Kolkata vs Chennai 7pm on Star Sports 2