Synopsis: Spaniard Jofre Mateu leads his side from the front as FC Goa recover from an early blow to beat North East United FC 3-1 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday. The three points help Goa to leapfrog to second spot while North East remain rooted to the bottom.
Zico makes five changes
Desperate to get back to winning terms, Zico made as many as five changes to the Goan team, which had lost 4-0 to Chennaiyin FC. Laxmikant Katiimani, CS Sabeeth, Jonatan Lucca, Bikramjit Singh and Luciano Sabrosa made their way into the first team while North East Cesar Farias named an unchanged side which played at Pune. The hosts’ defence maintained a high line as Goa’s Brazilian striker Reinaldo came twice to being through on ball but was flagged offside inside the first 10 minutes. Goa began positively but it was North East who opened the scoring through Ghanian striker Francis Dadzie in 12th minute. Raju Yumnam’s cross from the left found Sanju Pradhan on the right. He rounded off Debabrata Roy and crossed for Francis Dadzie at the far post who headed home with ease.
Jofre engineers comeback
Despite going down, Goa did not look hassled. Jonathan Lucca restored parity in the 28th minute. CS Sabeeth ran down the left and found Jofre on the edge of the box. The Spaniard laid it back for Lucca, who curled it inside with his right foot. Two minutes later, Reinaldo put the visitors ahead. Jofre was once again the creator. His shot off a Leo Moura assist took deflection of defender Cedric Hengbart. Reinaldo, under pressure from defender Zohmingliana Ralte, slid it in to make it 2-1 for Goa.
Thereafter, the visitors upped the ante and continued to attack in numbers. In the first half injury time, Jofre kick-started a counterattack with Reinaldo. The Brazilian sent Sabeeth in the clear but the former Mohun Bagan striker couldn’t get his shot away with Bracigliano off his line.
North East outclassed
Ten minutes into the second half, Jofre released Reinaldo on the left. he curled in a cross across the face of the goal and needed only a touch but Sabeeth fell short by a couple of inches. Mandar Rao Dessai had an immediate impact as he was on the score-sheet just three minutes after coming on for Jofre. Reinaldo passed for Moura who sent a ball between Reagan and Ralte for the onrushing Mandar. The Goan winger slid the ball home into the far post with goalkeeper Bracigliano coming off his line to close down the angle.
NE looked clueless as Goa completely outplayed them. The lack of experience clearly showed as NE could not stop the Goan assault. Nor could they manufacture a move of their own. North East’s troubles are similar to last season, when they could not respond after going down. With his side at the bottom after three rounds, Farias will hope to turn things around in the coming matches.