This was a game which both teams needed to win but that was especially the case for FC Goa because this would be their last home game. Their final two games are away against Atletico De Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC which is why they needed to ensure that they got 3 points today.
With 3 points, FC Goa could’ve gone above Atletico De Kolkata into the second position in the Indian Super League and they didn’t disappoint their fans or, for that matter, neutrals. Northeast United FC would, in contrast, be ruing having lost the chance to snatch the 3rd position from FC Goa.
Pre-match Team News from Both Sides
There were changes in the starting line-ups from both sides. FC Goa again chose to not play Robert Pires but started with their hero with a brace from their last game, Miroslav Slepicka.
Tolgay Ozbey, their regular starting striker was injured in the last game which gave Slepicka the chance to shine and did he shine on like a crazy diamond!
Watching this match, I gained an understanding of why Pires isn’t playing for FC Goa. The primary purpose of Pires is to be creative.
Santos is currently doing his job because he brings creativity and defensive nous to the Goan midfield.
If Zico chooses to play Santos and Pires both then their midfield becomes too lightweight. Bikramjit Singh is a midfield snapper who shields the back four and tries to win the ball back. Essentially, Santos with his greater work rate and tackling ability is why Pires is out of the starting line-up.
Northeast United also had to make one change due to injury. They started with Aiborlang Khongjee because Joan Capdevila is injured. Their other change was Isaac Chansa who took the place of Seiminlen Doungel (Len) in the team.
FC Goa Start Brightly
Within a minute of the first half, Massamba Lo Sambou made his first unforced error. This was expected from before the game and Massamba would do so a number of times in the rest of the match.
Northeast United FC were pegged back brilliantly by FC Goa early on in the first half and they were having trouble coping. Isn’t Northeast United the team known for their high press? Well, FC Goa were giving them a taste of their own medicine and forcing them to make mistakes. In the first 15 minutes FC Goa looked more likely to score.
Northeast United FC Tighten Up
After the initial domination from FC Goa, Northeast United FC got a grip on the game. How did they do it? They did it by putting a straightjacket on Santos.
Effectively, Santos was the honey and the Northeast United FC’s midfielders the bears on him.
Every time Santos received the ball from one of his teammates, someone from Northeast United would be on him like a flash. There were even times when he was double teamed.
More importantly, the Highlanders were rotating personnel on Santos which reduced the chances of them being yellow carded. It was a good tactic.
Romeo Fernandes Scores a Peach of a Goal!
In the 33rd minute, guess who showed up with the goal. It was Romeo! I am becoming a fan of this bloke. Just when I was thinking that he’s been quiet and was about to write it here, Romeo showed up with a beautiful goal.
He moved inside, picked up the ball, passed it to Slepicka, and ran into Northeast United’s 18 yard box pointing franticly where he wanted return the ball played.
The return pass from Slepicka was exquisite and the finish from Romeo was breath-taking. He took the ball on the fly and stroked it into the far corner. The ball clipped the far post before going into the net.
That goal deserved to be in the UEFA Champions League, it was that good! It’ll just have to settle for being the 100th goal of the Indian Super League. FC Goa 1 – 0 Northeast United FC!
FC Goa Double Their Lead
Northeast United FC’s response was to throw on James Keene for the injured Kondwani Mtonga. Mtonga is a crucial player for Northeast United, if you don’t know that. He’s their defensive midfielder and they rely on him to keep their midfield tight.
They did get a good chance to equalise from Adinga and Durga Boro both. Koke spotted Adinga completely free in the box who unbelievably decided to cross the ball first time instead of shooting it or taking it down. The resultant shot from Durga was blocked.
FC Goa turned on the magic once again just before the half time. It was a wonderful counterattack. Would you believe that it came from a Northeast United corner? Jan Seda caught the ball and launched a rocket into Romeo.
Romeo was the most forward player and he didn’t have any support. He took the ball and ran at 3 of Northeast United’s defenders. He beat them and went ahead. His cross caused all kinds of ruckus before Slepicka won the ball from a Northeast United’s player and scored with a shot into the far corner. FC Goa 2 – 0 Northeast United FC.
A Balanced Second Half
In the second half, FC Goa seemed to have decided to control the game a little more. They pulled back a little but it didn’t mean that they didn’t attack any more. It just meant that that balanced their attacks a little more.
It just meant that Northeast United got to attack as much as FC Goa. However, it also meant that the gaps in the midfield that were clearly visible in the first half were no longer visible so much.
Northeast United FC needed to halve the deficit and they needed it desperately so Ricki Herbert made two more attacking changes. He brought on Tomas Josl and Alen Deory for Chansa and Adinga.
Santos Continues to Shine
Made no difference though. FC Goa continued in the same vein. They had a good call for a handball on Massamba when Romeo let loose a vicious shot from outside the box.
My opinion after seeing the replays was that that was a deliberate handball from Massamba. He was inside the box too. It should’ve been a penalty. Northeast United got lucky on that one.
Romeo then dropped in a pinpoint cross on Slepicka’s head in the middle of the box! Slepicka headed it wide though. How good is this guy?
Romeo Fernandes is lighting up this league. I haven’t seen another Indian player perform like this with such consistency. Simply brilliant!
Santos had been ever-present throughout this game. He controlled the midfield and each of FC Goa’s attacks. He deservedly topped it all off with a goal. Good exchange occurred between Mandar Rao Desai and Narayan Das on Goa’s left flank before the latter’s cross into Santos. Santos took a touch to control it, another to protect it, and with the third one he put it into the near bottom corner. FC Goa 3 – 0 Northeast United FC.
Before Santos’s goal Northeast United FC had a couple of claims for penalty. Star Sports didn’t really show the replay of those incidents but in the first glance, it looked like the Northeast United players involved went down much too easily.
FC Goa All But Guarantee Their Presence in the Semis
After Santos’s goal, the fight died out of Northeast United FC’s players while FC Goa’s players started to showboat a little. After the 80th minute, you could see that everyone was tired. It was a particularly hot day too.
The game continued like that till the final whistle. With this win FC Goa take the 2nd spot in the league with pride. They’ve overtaken Atletico De Kolkata, who’ll get their chance to take it back tomorrow when they visit Delhi Dynamos FC.
More importantly, they’re 5 points clear from the 5th spot in the league which means that they have a great chance of being in the knockout phase.
Northeast United FC, you have to say, can kiss their chances of being in the knockout phases goodbye now. I feel bad for the team with lowest budget in the league. I think they’ll come good in the next few seasons though.