Juan Ferrando’s boys gifted every Indian Football fan a moment of ecstasy yesterday when club captain Edu Bedia headed in from a Brandon Fernandes freekick, as FC Goa went up 1-0 against last year’s runners-up Persepolis FC within thirteen minutes of the game. Although the night ended in frustration for the Gaurs, their resilient display against one of Asia’s best clubs was a small triumph for Indian Football nevertheless.
Juan Ferrando had said last day before the match, “It is important for us to work three times more than Persepolis because you know, this team has the experience, they have a plan, he (the coach) has control over his way of attacking and defending“. This was exactly what Persepolis displayed last night- fluid in creating chances and calm and composed throughout the game even after conceding a goal early in the match.
Goa, yesterday, seemingly had their best moments in the game between the 10th and 15th minute. A free-kick from Brandon Fernandes in the 13th minute was headed in by Edu Bedia past Persepolis keeper Hamed Lak to score the first goal by an Indian club in ACL history. FC Goa had another golden opportunity to double their lead shortly after when a swift counter-attack forced an excellent save from Hamed Lak.
However, the Gaurs’ celebration was short-lived as James Donachie’s foul inside the box resulted in a soft penalty for the visitors. Mehdi Torabi converted the spot-kick, allowing the visitors to come back into the game after a frantic few minutes. Soon Persepolis completed a remarkable comeback when captain Jalal Hosseini’s header from a corner kick propelled the Irani club into a 2-1 lead.
Persepolis was definitely the more dynamic team, confident on the ball and pressing well. Goa only had 37% possession throughout the game, but the more remarkable stat is that Juan Ferrando’s men managed only 44 passes in the opposition half, while the Red Army completed 212 passes in Goa’s half. The Persepolis footballers bullied FC Goa physically as well, making it difficult for the Gaurs to create chances through the midfield.
20-year-old Dheeraj Singh produced yet another incredible performance yesterday after being adjudged the best goalkeeper for the past two matchdays. His first significant interference came in the 40th minute when Vahid Amri’s shot forced him into an excellent save. The young custodian then went on to save Ahmad Noorollahi’s penalty kick, after Ivan Gonzalez’s foul inside the 18-yard box had gifted the visitors yet another spot-kick late in the first half. Persepolis was wasteful in the final third throughout the game squandering multiple opportunities to extend their lead over the hosts.
Persepolis head coach Yahya Golmohammadi lauded FC Goa’s performance post-match saying, “Before the game, some people expected us to win easily and with a lot of goals, but the expectation was not right. As we have seen, Goa was a cohesive, well-planned, tactical, and highly run team. I was expecting these difficulties and after receiving the goal, we returned to the game very well” He further lamented his team’s inefficiency in the final third saying, ” We could have scored more goals even after missing our penalty. If we had scored the third goal, the game would have been easier for us, but this did not happen. In the second half, we controlled the game very well and gained three good points in this difficult group“
FC Goa suffered an injury scare when their midfield maestro Edu Bedia was forced off the field due to a knee injury in the 70th minute of the game. However, the Spanish midfielder, who was issued his 2nd yellow card in the ACL yesterday, will be automatically out of action due to suspension when the Gaurs face the same opponent on Friday. Adil Khan’s underwhelming performance in the 29 minutes he played before being subbed off will be another thing that will worry coach Juan Ferrando.