AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
Fatorda: FC Goa needs to keep winning if it wants to be in contention of finishing at the top of the league table and represent India in the AFC competition, and a win against ATK at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda today will be the best way forward.
The fortress has not been made with the rocks for FC Goa this season with just four points from three home games and the only loss of the season. A loss against ATK will definitely not be the end of the journey but will surely make the walk more arduous for the remainder of the season.
ATK has been on a tumultuous ride since the start of Indian Super League (ISL) with four foreign coaches leading the boys – Habbas, Molina, Copell and Westwood – and it was under Habbas that Goa never managed to flare. And, Antonio Habbas is back again.
Sergio Lobera has never faced ATK under Antonio and the ATK that the latter is leading today is one that many coaches will envy because the ATK that FC Goa faces today is a mix of high intensity football sprinkled with outstanding individual balance.
FC Goa scraped past Hyderabad FC in the last match whilst ATK asserted themselves against NorthEast United FC. While one team will be just adjusting itself to its new environs, the other will be looking to assert their superiority and the football fan could end up having the cake and sharing it too.
Sergio Lobera has his full set available against ATK and amidst them is Chinglensana Singh who shone during FC Goa’s last win in place of Mourtada Fall. Sana, as he is known, used to first play as left back, a role now entrusted to captain Mandar Rao Desai and whether Sergio opts to play him instead of Mandar could determine which way the winds will blow in Fatorda today.
FC Goa has scored fourteen goals against ATK in the last twelve games between the two and the latter one short. However, even under former Brazilian coach Zico, FC Goa struggled to get past ATK under Antonio.
FC Goa played ATK – coached by Antonio – six times in the first two years of ISL and they did not win once and things started changing after Antonio parted ways. And, things are changing now that Antonio is back.
ATK is now back amongst the best in the pack and the best can be seen in the teams style of football. Unlike FC Goa, ATK has not one but two proven goal scorers – Roy Krishna and David Williams – who are capable of tearing through FC Goa’s left flank. Then, they have Edu Garcia and Soosairaj from India.
Sergio, on his part, will need to hope that his trusted style, and one that helped him in the last two seasons, will light the fire in the fans who have been accustomed to wins and many goals. FC Goa has scored nine away goals in comparison to four at home and the dependence on Coro to score has now begun to come apart.
With the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Executive Committee being apprised that as per ratification of the AFC Executive Committee, the League winners of the 2019-20 Hero Indian Super League will get a direct slot into the AFC Champions League 2021 all teams will leave little room for error. The best will survive.
FC Goa has not been able to take off in the sixth and most crucial edition of ISL. The goals have dried, the fans have had little chances to cheer and their football has been floating in a cauldron that is being put through extremes conditions – football is good some times, lackadaisical other times.
With season 2019-2020 reaching its half way mark, Sergio will need to break this monotony and give to the fans the football he had promised; and had delivered because excuses have never been part of exciting football.
Perhaps, the 62-year-old Antonio from Spain could teach Sergio that Flamenco could look elegant with Bollywood.