FC Goa’s foreign players, alongside coach Juan Ferrando, were forced to leave Goa before their final ACL match against Al Wahda due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in India. The all-Indian Goa side headed by assistant head-coach Clifford Miranda went down fighting 2-0 against Henk ten Cate’s Al Wahda.
The visitors started to dominate from the very first minute as the Gaurs struggled to maintain possession in their own half. Multiple chances were created in the first 45 minutes but the Al Wahda forwards failed to convert them. The first notable chance for the visitors came in the 7th minute of the game when Ibrahim linked up with Matvaz in the final third but their poor finishing cost them the chance. Matvaz and Ibrahim created a couple of opportunities thereafter but lack of composure inside the box and Dheeraj Singh denied them an opener.
As for Dheeraj Singh, the 22-year old custodian dropped yet another fantastic performance and in other news the sky is blue. The Gaurs found it difficult to cope with Al Wahda’s pace, as they created chances after chances only to be denied by Dheeraj. His first notable save was in the 28th minute when he saved a goal-bound shot targeted at the right bottom post. Dheeraj’s struggles with fitness led him to make one last incredible save in this season’s ACL when he prevented Al Wahda’s Omar Kribin from scoring before being replaced by Naveen Kumar. The latter was mostly kept out of the action for the twenty minutes he played apart from the Almenhali goal.
FC Goa maintained a defensive approach throughout and kept a low block right from the first minute. Their only notable chance came from a Brandon free-kick but Glan Martin’s shot on target from the rebound was defended off brilliantly by Al Wahda.
The Gaurs were pressing with much intensity but Al Wahda were much better on the day. Capitalizing on mistakes by the Goan players, Wahda managed to maintain a lion’s share of possession in Goa’s half. They finally got their acts right and went up 1-0 when Glan Martins lost the ball in a dangerous area and Khribin fired in. The visitors netted in another one in the dying minutes of the game to finish second in the league table and qualify for the Round of 16.
FC Goa concluded their incredible ACL campaign going down fighting against much more powerful opposition. A Goa side without their key players largely held the Emirati side at bay apart from the two goals. Led by coach Juan Ferrando, FC Goa managed to exceed all expectations and finished ahead of Laurent Blanc’s Al Rayyan in Group-E, ending with 3 massive draws. On to Mumbai next, as Indian fans now shift the huge burden of expectations on Sergio Lobera’s shoulders.