MARGAO: Despite a dominating performance on the pitch, FC Goa conceded a 2-1 defeat to Chennaiyin FC, who scored two goals in the first half to take the honours in their first match of the Hero Indian Super League on Wednesday.
The home team, egged on by a vociferous full house at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, started brightly with Edgar Marcelino in thick of action as the Portuguese midfielder displayed some incisive passing. FC Goa captain Robert Pires was also a key figure in the middle for the hosts, with the former Arsenal star showing no signs of rust.
However, two goals within a span of 10 minutes turned the match on its head as Chennaiyin FC went into the break with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Both the goals came much against the run of play in the 32nd and 42nd minutes through former Churchill Brothers striker Balwant Singh and Brazilian forward Elano Blumer. FC Goa played an impressive attacking game in the second half and pulled one goal back in the 65th minute through French defender Gregory Arnolin.
Though the major part of the proceedings belonged to FC Goa, the truism of the match was that the side which looked better and dominated the play, came out as losers. However, Chennaiyin FC had their strength in stray counter moves, with Elano being the main schemer to hoodwink the Goa defence and help his team win the match, which FC Goa could have easily pocketed had their strikers been more aggressive.
FC Goa manager Zico started with Pires, who did the duties as the skipper of the side, and Edgar as the playmaker alongside compatriot Miguel Herlein in an attacking role. The team’s other strikers, Ranti Martins and Tolgay Ozbey, and Brazilian signing Andre Santos were benched. Chennaiyin player-manager Marco Materazzi benched himself and put Elano in attack with Mikael Silvestre manning the defence.
Pires excelled throughout the proceedings and played the whole 90+5 minutes as he mesmerised the Chennayin defenders with precise and beautiful passes that beat even the strongest of defenders like Silvestre. The Goan captain was tightly marked and was fouled often, which later prompted Zico to decry that the opposition “didn’t play football”.
“They are an experienced team no doubt. They faked injuries, they made hard tackles. They showed their experience in the way they played. Our team played football. Their team didn’t,” the FC Goa manager said in the post-match media interaction. Materazzi, however, had a different take on his team’s tactics. “Pires has played in England. So he is used to such physical challenges. It’s normal in a football game,” the Italian said.
FC Goa had started positively and dominated the first quarter of the match, with the ball staying in the Chennaiyin half. Goa missed three chances in a span of 10 minutes, during which a Gregory header just sailed over the bar. Edgar was lively in the front but could not force any breakthrough move.
Chennaiyain went into the lead when Elano fed Balwant on the extreme right flank as the latter latched on to the loose ball giving Jan Seda no chance in the FC Goa goal, in the 32nd minute. Ten minutes later, Elano sent a curling freekick from the top of the box to beat Seda again and make it 2-0.
2-0 down at the break, FC Goa returned with attacking play and were all over the rival territory but would not find a goal, however close they came to get it. Then, Youness Bengelloun sent a pass to Gregory to tap in for the reducer after collecting a long floater from Miguel Herlein into the box.
FC Goa went into overdrive to find the equaliser as they sent in Ranti up front, while substitute Clifford Miranda almost scored from a delightful corner kick. In the end, the FC Goa performance turned out to be a story of missed chances. It was a frustrating opening match for the Goans as Ranti failed twice to score from close.
FC Goa go down to Chennaiyin 2-1