AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
The glitter of goals is fading and with it the promise of exciting football. Yet, FC Goa is very much in the reckoning for the league title and could well be in contention if they manage to beat Kerala Blasters in their seventh home game at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, today.
FC Goa scored eighteen goals during its first six home games last season and has managed to score eleven this time. Obviously, the tempo has slackened and a lot of it is because the team depended on the five foreign players instead of eleven and the scars are beginning to show.
FC Goa won four of the first six home games last year, lost one and drew one. The story is similar this time around and so are the chances of winning against Kerala. However, the opponents come with two elements – Jessel Carneiro from Goa and coach Eeclo Schattorie – who could leave the shores with hard lessons to digest.
If Kerala Blasters has been plagued by injuries to its key players; FC Goa has had to do without their key players due to suspension. If FC Goa has been bobbing between the top of the table and the middle it is because the team has managed to finish with the lead it established whilst the visitors have lost it down the line.
FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera has had a good run, just like Valverde was having in Barcelona. But, the former had to go because, for some, football is not just about winning but how a win is designed. FC Goa cannot be bothered about design because winning the title has been elusive and a win against Kerala will help Sergio start the team’s next game on a strong footing.
Winning against Kerala could have been a blast – as it was last season – had it not been for the presence of former Dempo Sports Club player Jessel who has impressed in all the thirteen games that he has featured in his first season and Eeclo’s style of inclusive football.
Jessel is not the star of Kerala but a player who has made other players in his team shine like stars. Jessel made things happen for Dempo SC and he has taken forward his style and is now making things happen in Kerala. How far he goes, could determine the way, either of the two teams end up.
Lenny Rodrigues joined FC Goa from Bengaluru FC last season and chaperoned his colleagues. He has been given the freedom to enjoy his football this time and has paid back with two goals. Lenny’s ability to assert himself within his colleagues could gloss FC Goa’s chances of retaining the top slot.
Brandon Fernandes’ story is not similar but on the same lines – though the lad could have used the variants he possesses better. Brandon needed a call up to the national team to show his ability to caress the ball, make game and go for goals and it is his display for India that is allowing him to let his style flow.
Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena (to some extent) have been anchoring FC Goa conquest from the back. They have been as versatile in attack as in defense. But, there have been times, when both have shown they cannot carry the onus always and that is when the cracks appeared and were well utilised by the opponents.
Goalkeeper Mohamad Nawaz has been a positive constant of team FC Goa and his performance today will be another indicator of the result. Mohammad has been good; very good and his best will come along with the best years of his life.
Manvir Singh has been lucky. Much luckier then Liston Colaso – who is lucky to have found a new home in Hyderabad FC; a home that will give his talent an opportunity to shine again. If Mandar scores, he will himself have to pat his back because his football is far from entertaining despite his selection to the national team.
If Jessel is excelling for Kerala on the left back, Mandar Rao Desai is yet to prove that Sergio did the right thing in asking him to play as left back. Mandar has speed but that speed has not helped stop opponents from breaking the FC Goa defense – or India’s defense – from the left.
Despite a sluggish start to ISL 6, FC Goa has still kept
the flame of winning burning. The style of play maybe different but the
approach has not totally faded. For many in the stadium on Saturday it will be
how Sergio pushes his boys back to the top or the mark Goa’s Jessel wants to
leave in his debut season