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FC Goa and Delhi Dynamos players locked in an aerial battle during their last round match of the ISL in New Delhi on Sunday

Romeo propels Goa to top spot


NEW DELHI: FC Goa rallied in a remarkable fashion from a two-goal deficit to beat Delhi Dynamos 3-2 in their last round match of the Indian Super League football to jump to the top of points table here on Sunday.

Delhi led 2-0 at halftime through goals from Serginho Green (31st) and Adil Nabi (40) but Goa responded brilliantly in the second half through a double strike by Romeo Fernandes (68th and 69th) and a late winner by Joffre (90th).

The win by Goa in the last match of the league phase of ISL 2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Sunday took them on top of the points table ahead of defending champions Ateltico de Kolkata with 25 points from 14 matches. Interestingly, Sunday’s rivals will take on each other in the home and away semifinals as Delhi ended fourth with 22 points from their 14 league matches. Delhi and Goa will lock horns here again in the first leg of the semifinals on December 11.

For Goa, Sunday’s win also put them in an advantageous position as they will play their second leg match of the semifinals at home.

Delhi ended on same points with Chennaiyin FC but the Roberto Carlos-coached side have inferior goal difference of minus two as against 10 of the Chennai-based side. Atletico de Kolkata will play against Chennaiyin FC in the other semifinals as the two teams ended second and third respectively in the points table.

For Delhi, it was a sort of disappointment as they could not notch up a win at home for the sixth time on the trot though Sunday’s loss was the first here this season. They had notched up just one win at home this season – a 1-0 win over Chennaiyin FC in their first home match on October 8. All the other five home matches of Delhi had ended in stalemates. Delhi had better record away from home as they won four times on the road as against three losses.

Delhi marquee player-manager Carlos made seven changes to his side, largely with an eye on the semifinals where he would need fresh players. That, however, did not seem to impact the team as the hosts raced to a 2-0 lead in the first session with Goa looking completely out of sorts.

The opening goal came in the 31st minute as Florent Malouda turned provider again when his free-kick that was whipped across goal was headed home by Greene from close range. Delhi seemed to be in the drivers’ seat nine minutes later as Nabi doubled the lead. Richard Gadze had done well to hold on to the ball inside the box despite some fierce opposition and then played it into the path of Nabi, who finished the move with ease past Goa goalkeeper Elinton Andrade.

Goa were helpless in the opening 45 minutes but turned things around after the break. Romeo Fernandes got his first goal in the ISL this season in the 68th minute and sparked Goa’s revival. It was a trademark Romeo goal who cut inside on his left foot and then hammered an unstoppable shot at goal that brushed goalkeeper Sanjiban Ghosh’s hands and sailed into the net.

A minute later, Goa drew level, this time Romeo making a fine run on the right to meet Reinaldo Oliveira’s inch-perfect cross after Jofre had done well to split the defence.

Both teams went close towards the end of the match in search of the match-winner but Goa had the last laugh in the 90th minute. A through ball from Jonatan Lucca saw Joffre beat the offside trap, leave the onrushing goalkeeper for dead and finish calmly to give Goa a huge boost ahead of the semifinal battles.

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