Underdogs Win the Battle of the Sweet Pass
Both NorthEast United FC and FC Goa can be said to be pass masters since they rely on a quick passing game to get their goals. Their passing tendencies weren’t the only similarities between them in this game, though. Both teams had a number of Brazilian players and both of them had Brazilian central defenders as their captains.
NorthEast United FC went into this game looking for their first win over FC Goa in three years and they got it in style! FC Goa huffed and puffed throughout the game but they couldn’t beat the Indian national football team regular goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
In fact, the difference between the two teams, in my opinion, was between the posts. FC Goa missed their last two year’s first keeper, Jan Seda tremendously in this game as Kattimani’s limitations were exposed by NorthEast United FC glaringly. The young Indian keeper could be blamed for both NorthEast United FC’s goals with the first one being obvious and the second one showing a certain lack of quality or, at the very least, confidence.
What the aftermath of today’s game is for both FC Goa and Kattimani is yet to be seen. The young keeper could show resilience and come back stronger or his career could fade away from this point on.
Team News for NorthEast United FC and FC Goa
With respect to the team news, Nelo Vingada pulled a rabbit out of the hat by replacing star player Nicolas Leandro Velez by Wellington Gomes Priori. the logical conclusion for this change has to be a lack of fitness levels which isn’t something new for the Indian Super League. Apart from Velez, all other NorthEast United FC players continued their stint in the team.
Since I didn’t cover the first game of the season, I’m going to comment on the presence of Subrata Paul in the team over Rehenesh TP. It seems like Vingada has decided to go for seniority and experience over performance this season. It is justified in a way because when a new season begins, form goes out of the window. Rehenesh, though, will make a good deputy for Paul.
Zico’s first team of the season was without the mercurial and highly talented Romeo Fernandes who was planted firmly on the bench. FC Goa was also without Gregory Arnolin through injury. Goa would depend on Mandar Rao Desai and Trindade Goncalves to be their creative forces since their style involves a lot of wing play.
Zico’s stamp on the FC Goa team was more than evident as the “Ravers” (you lot know what I’m talking about. We can turn that into “Reavers” if they dominate the league) contained no less than five Brazilians and that doesn’t include Reinaldo Da Cruz Oliveira. In fact, today’s game had an overpowering Brazilian flavour. There were eight Brazilians on the pitch today – an amazing number.
FC Goa’s Diwali Moment for Northeast United FC
The game began with a nice piece of skill from one of the least likely places in the form of Raju Gaikwad. Gaikwad pulled a nutmeg on the man closing him. It was highly unlikely simply because Gaikwad is supposed to be a centre back who was playing in the right full position. It’s almost like Ryan Shawcross showing footballing skill on the football pitch.
FC Goa won the first corner of the game and made the first chance because of it. It was near post glancing header from Trindade that was blocked for another corner that amounted to nothing.
NorthEast United FC showed what they can do soon after as they created a chance for last game’s goal scorer, Katsumi Yusa. The cross came from the left flank and landed for Yusa who was placed beyond the far post. By the time, he brought the ball down, Laxmikanth Kattimani had rushed into him to smother the snapshot. Kattimani decided to come when the ball was still in the air. It was a good decision too!
However, his decision-making soon let him down as NorthEast United FC took the lead through one of the biggest goalkeeping gaffes I’ve ever seen. Kattimani was closed down by Emiliano Alfaro. It was the lamest clearing ever! Side-footed pass that was blocked by Alfaro. The rebound went straight into the net. Kattimani gets laughed at and the lead goes to the north-easterners. NorthEast United FC 1 – 0 FC Goa
FC Goa Dominate to No Avail
Soon after, despite being a goal down, FC Goa started taking control of the game. They fashioned a number of ‘almost’ chances for their players with Joffre receiving most of them through his shadowy movement off the ball. The best of these chances was created by Desai’s beautiful dribbling skill and an even better cross. He threaded the needle for Joffre with his laser-guided cross but Joffre’s shot was well saved by Paul.
In fact, FC Goa’s dominance of NorthEast United FC started to tell near the end of the first half. Lucio found himself with acres of space on the far post from a free kick. Unfortunately, instead of striking the ball, he tried squaring it. Even so, one of the NorthEast United FC players almost put it into the net in his bid to clear it. It was only Paul who managed to save his blushes.
FC Goa Huffed and Puffed…
FC Goa showed their intent before the ball was kicked in the second half by bringing on Romeo for Sanjay Balmuchu. It was an attacking move that we’ve all come to expect from Zico as Balmuchu was a defender at the wing position and Romeo is easily one of the most attacking players in FC Goa’s ranks.
The first real goalmouth action came because of a long-range shot by Trindade from the midfield. The shot had venom in it and it was swerving wickedly too. This was followed by two back to back and downright amazing saves from Paul. The first was from a point blank shot taken from near the penalty spot and the second was another long-range, swerving shot.
Those saves showed the importance of a reliable keeper. The only difference between the teams till now was the difference in quality between Paul and Kattimani. In fact, if the latter hadn’t made that mistake, FC Goa would have been considered to be favourites to win this game. Still, ifs and buts don’t really mean much, especially since there was a huge difference in their respective experiences.
…But NorthEast United FC Brought the House Down
In the 62nd minute, the difference in goalkeeping experience told again as Alfaro was set free by Holicharan Narzary with a sublime touch. The ball was played into Narzary who flicked it with the outside of his boot into the path of the marauding Alfaro. Alfaro ran through and punched the ball through Kattimani’s legs in what was an extremely cool finish. That was Alfaro’s second goal. NorthEast United FC 2 – 0 FC Goa
This was probably the first chance that NorthEast United FC got in the whole of the second half and they scored from it. It’s never nice when a keeper lets a ball slip between his legs even though it’s a staple strategy for many strikers. In fact, it’s also one of those things that keepers train to avoid. Everybody has a bad day at work sometimes, so we’ll cut Kattimani some slack.
A Predictable End to an Unpredictable Game
It was almost like the second goal knocked the stuffing out of FC Goa because they efforts even stopped being penetrative. Moreover, in their rush to score and NorthEast United FC’s rush to stop them, rough tackles crept in both sides’ games.
NorthEast United FC fashioned another beautiful chance as Velez broke the offside trap and produced a no-look square cross for Alfaro. However, Gaikwad, who had a wonderful game for FC Goa managed to block the shot from point blank range.