The debut AFC Champions League season of FC Goa was nothing less than an inspiring campaign for Indian football. It was the first time an Indian side participated in the main competition. FC Goa played in Group E which had good quality sides with many talented players.
Of the four sides in the group, Persepolis only had one foreign player in the squad, goalkeeper Bozidar Radosevic who played only one match against FC Goa. Al Rayyan had to drop out Lionel Messi’s national team colleague Gabriel Mercado to abide by the 3+1 foreigners rule. Al Wahda played with 2 Asian foreigners. The hosts FC Goa kept out their top scorer of the season Igor Angulo and midfielder Alberto Noguera from the Champions League squad. We take a look at the top 5 foreigners who shined in the group stage of the 2021 AFC Champions League (Group E).
5. Jorge Ortiz ( FC Goa )
The versatile midfielder was a tireless worker for FC Goa in all the matches he played. As the only foreigner in the attack he had added responsibilities of creating chances and holding up play. Naturally a wide midfielder, he played out from the left wing and showed mature performances when Goa had possession. Although he was playing a bit away from his Spanish teammates, he was able to gel well with the Indian players in the attack. The work rate showed by the Spaniard was commendable as FC Goa went about making advancements in counter attacks.
In the reverse leg against Al Wahda, Ortiz opened the scoring by finishing off an inch perfect lob by Brandon Fernandes. The versatility to play as a no.9 also came in good whenever Ishan Pandita was replaced.
4. Tim Matavz ( Al Wahda )
A player who was expected to excel in the tournament didn’t disappoint as he helped his team into the next round. The 32 year old Slovenian has had a wide range of experience playing in top European leagues, especially the Dutch league. He played in all matches of the group stage for Al Wahda and was constantly creating problems for the opposition defence.
A natural target man, Al Wahda tried to provide him with as many chances as possible. The likes of midfielder Khalil Ibrahim played a massive role in doing that. Matavz held up the ball in the final third owing to his strength which helped to get more out of every attack they made. He scored the decisive winner against Persepolis and provided 3 assists to guide his team into the knockout stages. With the in-form attacking duo of Omar Khrbin and Tim Matavz, Al Wahda will be going into the next stage of the competition with immense confidence.
3. Edu Bedia ( FC Goa )
For a side which was making its debut in the biggest stage of Asian club football, coupled with the responsibility of representing the entire nation, captaining the team needed great maturity. Skipper Edu Bedia was up to that task, not just mentally but also contributing with the ball too. After having a good season with FC Goa in the ISL, he continued his fine form in the midfield.
The deep lying playmaker created and initiated many chances from the back. He was always available whenever Goa had the ball, with Juan Ferrando’s possession based tactics clicking well for the team. The Spaniard was able to control the tempo of the game and gelled well with teammates which enabled Goa to oraganize their attacks patiently.
Edu Bedia became the first player of an Indian team to score in the AFC Champions League when he headed in a delightful free kick from Brandon Fernandes against Persepolis. His presence was missed against Persepolis due to suspension and the final match against Al Wahda as the foreign contingent had to leave the country due to the rising covid cases. It reflected on the performance of the team as Goa lost 0-4 and 0-2 to Persepolis and Al Wahda respectively.