Al Wahda was held to a goalless draw by a spirited FC Goa side in Matchday 2 of the AFC Champions League game at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. Both teams had clear-cut chances to break the deadlock, but it was the goalkeepers for both teams who came out on top.
Juan Ferrando named an unchanged side from the team that held Al Rayyan SC to a goalless draw on Tuesday. Ishan Pandita kept his place as the lone striker and Sanson Pereira was chosen again over Saviour Gama at left-back. Al Wahda’s coach made one change from their loss against Perspolis, with Ismail Matar coming in for Khamis Esmaeel.
FC Goa had a shaky start to the game with goalkeeper Dheeraj scuffing a clearance straight into the path of Ismail Matar only for James Donachie’s timely intervention to deny a chance for Emirati International. The Indian side then managed to slow down the game and limit opportunities for Al Wahda. Goa also played into the opposition half through some intricate passing and eventually grew into the game.
Al Wahda was forced into a substitution in the 12th minute, with Mansor Al Harbi replacing Abdulla Salmeen after a collision with Glan Martins caused a head injury. The Emirati side enjoyed a majority of the ball possession but failed to create too many clear-cut chances in the half. The first real chance of the game for Al Wahda fell to their center-back Fares Juma from a corner, but his header was straight at Dheeraj. Dheeraj also had to dive low in order to deny striker Matavz towards the end of the first half. Al Wahda did move the ball around well in FC Goa’s half, but the final ball was often lacking, resulting in coach Henk ten Cate cutting a frustrated figure.
In the second half, Al Wahda came out all guns blazing at FC Goa’s goal by committing more players in search of a goal. This also exposed Al Wahda on the break, resulting in a much more open and end-to-end contest in the second half. Juan Ferrando sensing weakness on the counter-attack for Al Wahda bought the much more faster Devendra for Ishan Pandita. The 22-year old made an instant impact by creating FC Goa’s best chance until that point in time. Devendra found Ortiz in the penalty box who instead fired a cross into the 6-yard box. The clearance fell to Brandon, whose low shot hit the post and deflected away. At the other end, Khaleel almost found himself one-on-one against Dheeraj but for yet another timely tackle from Ivan Gonzalez.
Al Wahda started attacking with more intent, as Matar had an appeal for a penalty denied by the referee after a great tackle from Ivan Gonzalez to deny him a scoring chance. Khribin had a great chance to break the deadlock but his free header at the back post found Dheeraj’s graceful palms, whose positioning was impeccable. FC Goa’s best chance came in the 72nd minute, with Brandon venturing forward and his low cross finding the substitute Devendra, whose goal-bound shot was denied by a stunning one-handed save from Al Wahda keeper Mohamed Al Shamsi.
Dheeraj did well again to deny Matar from a free-kick, as Al Wahda started piling the pressure up in the last 15 minutes. Dheeraj denied Khribin from close range, parrying his shot away and Seriton heroically blocking the rebound from Lee as the game entered stoppage time. However, Dheeraj’s most telling save of the game came in the final minute of the match. Khaleel Ibrahim got the better of Saviour Gama on the right flank and delivered a wonderful cross for Khirbin at the back post, only to be denied from point-blank range by the FC Goa Number 1.
Great goalkeeping coupled with some excellent defending from both teams resulted in a goalless draw of a pulsating and thoroughly entertaining game of football. Both teams would feel that they could have gotten more from the game. FC Goa now have 2 points from 2 games whereas Al Wahda just have the 1 point from the 2 games they have played so far. Al Wahda will next face Al Rayyan on Tuesday whereas FC Goa will face Perspolis on the same day.