MINOO FERNANDES | NT
FC Goa jumped out from the jaws of defeat when they came back from behind to hold NorthEast United FC to a 1-1 draw in keeping their hopes of making it to the semifinals grade intact in an explosive ISL match played at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda on Wednesday.
NorthEast United FC, who brought chills down the spines of FC Goa team, went into the lead in the 55th minute of play through Senegalese substitute Victor Mendy. FC Goa levelled the score in the 80th minute, thanks to Brazilian medio Leonardo da Silva Moura who served his countryman Reinaldo Da Cruz Olikveira whose blistering grounder gave no chance to NorthEast United keeper Rehenesh Paramba.
With this drawn encounter, FC Goa have 19 points in their kitty, one less than table toppers Atletico de Kolkata. NorthEast United FC are now on 17 points, one point behind Delhi Dynamos FC and Chennaiyin FC. Goa stand on the second spot.
FC Goa survived several anxious moments in both the sessions of play. Once again it was Laxmikant Kattimani who took most of the calls for the team and had it not been for him, FC Goa’s march to the semifinals could have been cumbersome. It was also the hard work of Leo Moura, in particular and the goal that Reinaldo scored which had class written all over it.
Jonathan Luca, Leo Maura and Reinaldo excelled in their moves bringing in a sort of Brazilian flare on display with defender Lucimar Da Silva Ferreira bearing most of the brunt of the constant counter attacks from the rivals.
In the first half itself, FC Goa could have been in the arrears in the 4th, 13th and 22nd minute of play. First, it was hard working NorthEast FC’s Portuguese captain Simao Sabrosa whose header off a corner kick was somehow saved by Leo Maura on the goal line.
Then, midfielder Sanjiv’s shot, which was haphazardly collected by keeper Kattimani, spilled but was cleared by FC Goa defender Raju Gaikwad and then Spaniard Bruno Herrero Arias created a flutter of sorts but Jonathan Luca was there to clear it to safety when the keeper was beaten. But, whatever attacks FC Goa made, even in the second session, were foiled admirably by French defender Cedric Alan Hervine Hengbart.
FC Goa are now poised to fight for the top slot and cannot afford to have any slip-up in their remaining matches. If they do, they may even risk the chance as every team is fighting for the semifinals spot. One loss could turn things for any team at this juncture of the tournament.
The proceedings began intensively as both teams vied for supremacy. It was debonair Leo Maura who focussed his attention of splitting the rival defence that really paved the way for FC Goa team to find the equaliser. FC Goa could have surely not asked for better result than this.