FC Goa are seen by many fans of the Indian Super League as plucky upstarts. Today, they got a chance to show themselves as something much more. Maybe they could prove themselves to be championship material. Kerala Blasters FC had a chance to apply some pressure on the two favourites of the ISL – Chennaiyin FC and Atletico De Kolkata.
FC Goa Had the Edge
FC Goa had the momentum as well as the home support on their side which is probably why they chose to not make any changes to their starting line-up.
This meant that Robert Pires remained on the bench. He is old, you know. He needs his rest.
Besides, his team’s been winning without him. I think Romeo Fernandes is a worthy understudy for him. Kerala, surprisingly, made two changes to their starting line-up.
More than the fact, the type of change was surprising because they chose to take off Iain Hume. The only reason I could think of for this particular change was that David James wanted his team to be more physical than agile.
Andrew Barisic is more of an imposing target man than Hume could ever hope to be. My gut feeling turned out to be right because throughout the first half Kerala Blasters FC tried to physically intimidate the FC Goa players. I think David James took a leaf out of the playbook used by Harry Redknapp, and Tony Pulis. He did change his strategy in the second half, though.
David James Is the Great Wall of India
The game began at a frantic pace with FC Goa full of attacking while Kerala Blasters FC kept playing dirty. Just to show you how dirty and cynical they were being – they had 2 yellow cards within 30 minutes.
The first real piece of goal mouth action came from Tolgay Ozbey who was set free from the left flank with a marvellous ball. He ran in at a tight angle and got a powerful shot off which hit the inside of the far post and fell back into the 18 yard box.
The follow up from another FC Goa player (I couldn’t see which one) was saved by David James wonderfully. From the resultant corner, David James was at it again when he saved a bullet of a header.
Immediately after, Kerala countered and came up with a great through ball for Barisic. He ran into the box but could only come up with a poor finish. In-between these events, Romeo Fernandes showed some good skill in defence and attack both. He seemed like a confident player. The way he tackled, dribbled, and crossed while handling increasingly physical pressure from Kerala reminded me of the willow tree. It bends, it leans, it even turns with strong wind, but it keeps the ball! I don’t need to tell you that I’m tremendously impressed with this guy.
Mandar Rao Desai made a well-timed run in from the left flank and Andre Santos picked him out with a peach of a ball. Desai latched onto the ball only to find David James looming almost on the edge of his box. He tried to score past him but James’s big foot managed to divert the ball for a corner.
Into the stoppage time we went and David James made his first mistake of the game. He came for a ball but fumbled it into Santos’ path outside the box. Santos just had to finish and he hit a good shot but there was a defender on the line who headed it out. The man at the line was Gurwinder Singh. That was virtually the last action of the first half. FC Goa 0 – 0 David James.
Kerala Blasters FC Try but Goa’s Quality Shines
In the second half, David James felt that his team was suffering too much. As a result, he brought on Iain Hume and Milagres Gonsalves to push FC Goa back a little. It was an interesting change simply because he took off two defenders for these two attacked in the form of Raphael Romey and Godwin Franco who was in some serious danger of being sent off.
The changes didn’t make much difference for David James and if he wants a chance top coach in England and he needs to do better than that. They did do some good things but it wasn’t enough to quell FC Goa’s drive to attack. FC Goa continued to attack and dominate Kerala left, right, and centre. In the thick of it were everyone from Andre Santos, Narayan Das, Mandar, Amiri, and virtually everyone else.
The way FC Goa were playing this game, it was theirs to lose or draw. Kerala had no say whatsoever what happened to them. They were being steamrolled. The only problem was that FC Goa didn’t know how to finish their beautiful moves.
Slepicka Heralds Kerala’s Downfall
In the 63rd minute, the referee decided to yellow card Hume. There was no contact and Hume didn’t deserve it, someone else did. I think the referee didn’t like all the winking that Hume was directing at him*.
We Indians are famously homophobic and I think the referee didn’t see Hume’s winking as too much. Hume himself was flabbergasted and totally confused about what the referee was about.
The yellow card was ridiculous and if there was a referee for referees, the referee would have been yellow carded by the referees’ referee.
From the resultant freekick, Santos put in a good ball which Miroslav Slepicka stroked into the net from the far post. It was a long time coming and was thoroughly deserved. I have to say, I didn’t expect Slepicka to score. I thought it would be someone else. Fair play to the forward though. The finish was smooth, composed, and very accomplished. FC Goa 1 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC.
Kerala Try to Fight Back but No Cigar
Kerala Blasters FC tried to fight back and guess who led them. It was the incredible Hume with his infallible dedication and intensity. Unfortunately for him, FC Goa put the game beyond Kerala Blasters FC.
It was an exceptional counterattack and the ball was given to Romeo on the right flank inside the box. He gave the defender the eye and cut the ball back to Andre Santos.
It was a no look pass! You know? The kind you do in basketball? The ball came to Santos who controlled is with nonchalance and put it into the bottom far corner. This was game over for me. Andre Santos 2 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC.
Slepicka the Sharpshooter with a Brace
In the 79th minute, Slepicka got his second goal of the game and FC Goa squashed even the smallest of hopes that Kerala Blasters FC might have had.
Clifford Miranda was set free behind the Kerala backline by Santos. He took the ball on but was caught for speed by Sandesh Jhingan**. Miranda managed to pass to Slepicka who returned the ball to him.
Miranda returned the favour, freeing Slepicka with a back flick. Slepicka tried James’ the right bottom corner and James saved. The ball fell back to Slepicka who didn’t make a mistake this time. FC Goa 3 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC.
Once the goal went in, James was so pissed he tried to kick the goalpost. He missed like all his strikers and got his foot stuck in the net. I felt sorry for him even though it was slightly funny. He played so well in the first half only to be let down by his team.
That was the last of what was a very good day for FC Goa. They didn’t only win but they won it with style. With this win, their march up the table continued and they overhauled Kerala Blasters FC. They are now in 3rd and Atletico De Kolkata must be looking over their shoulders and worrying about what may happen especially since Goa’s GD is the same as Kolkata’s i.e. +4. And you know what? They did it without Robert Pires!
*I believe Iain Hume has some problem with his eye, as per the commentators. One of his eyes is more closed than the other one. The man was uncomfortable all night long and was closing one eye repeatedly because of it. It was like a tic. You gotta appreciate his desire to play for his team though. He played and made a difference.
**He’s another one for the future. I’ve been impressed with him as well.