A delicately weighted ball from the middle of the pitch, then a few minutes later what seemed like a shot but was a piercing pass through Kerala Blasters’ box – FC Goa registered their first win of the season in the Indian Super League but it was two moments of sheer brilliance that got them to that spot. What was further endearing to the bit of quality was that it came from the boot of two Indian players.
After captain Mandar Rao Dessai made the shock decision to switch clubs and leave Goa for the City Football Group-owned Mumbai City FC, the Gaurs didn’t open their cheque books to sign a new left back. They instead chose 23-year old Goan Saviour Gama to step up to the role. While it might be too early to take a call on whether the move has been successful or not, shades of it were there to see in Round 4 of the ISL.
Saviour created the first goal for Goa – a chip, supremely deposited past two of Kerala’s central defenders, straight onto the left foot of striker Igor Angulo, who was left with the job of lifting the ball over the keeper for the opener.
Goa’s second goal came from Indian international Brandon Fernandes. The Goan, who went from South Africa to trials at Leicester to returning back to India and Goa, stood in front of a sea of Kerala players and right as it looked like he was going to pull the trigger, pulled out a dummy from his bag of tricks. With most of the players ahead of expecting a shot and trying to put their body on the line, the modern-day attacking midfielder threaded the needle and sent in a pass along the pitch that beat everyone and landed plum on the feet of Jorge Mendoza, who made it 2-0.
When one watches FC Goa play, particularly this season, their distinct Spanish style of football – be it keeping the balls for swathes of possession or immediately pressing the ball when lost – comes across and it’s usually players like Angola or Edu Bedia who dictate the style of play. But for two Indian players to produce the best moments of the match for this Goa team is a step in the right direction.
Three matches played, three losses taken and 12 hours of bus journeys to contend with – life in the Indian Super League for debutants SC East Bengal has not been the kindest and now with the goal difference resembling the weather at a hill station, coach Robbie Fowler has trained his guns on one and all.
Before EB succumbed to a 2-0 loss to NorthEast United FC, Fowler had come under the scanner for saying that it looked like some Indian players had never been coached before. In their loss to NEUFC, Fowler underwent his five stages of grief as East Bengal were denied two clear-as-daylight penalties that could have changed the tide of the match and their season. In the post-match presser, Fowler ended up admitting that while he was not a fan of the VAR and how it slowed the game down, it was now clear that the refereeing in the ISL warranted the entry of the technology that has garnered criticism across football leagues in the world.
But VAR or no VAR, Fowler has been forced to confront the damning three games, no points and no goals scored stat. He insisted that one of the aspects where his team lag behind is training because of how far away the ground is. “Our own game is a two-hour drive to the stadium. We are up against it. Again, I’m not making excuses. These are reasons as to why we can’t train as much as we want to. You can’t have the players on the bus for four hours a day. But we’ve got to work with what we’ve got and it’s a tough ask,” said the former Liverpool striker.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines