Within ten minutes, it all unravelled. In that time, Delhi Dynamos showed why they are regarded by many as the best team in the competition. In that time, FC Goa crumbled to their feet. The ruins were laid bare. The crisis was there for all to see.
And to think, FC Goa took the lead in the match. With the scores level at the interval, it seemed that Zico's players had heeded his advice. They were playing for pride.
But Dynamos came out with an elevated sense of purpose in the second period. From the 38th minute to the 57th, the host slammed in five goals. There was Marcelinho's bullet shot which shattered Goa's goal to put his side ahead.
Thereafter, Goa's crumbling defence made it a willing opponent. Three more followed and none of those goals required an exceptional move. The humiliation of Goa was complete. If Zico thought things could not get worse for him and his side, he was forced to think again. The post-match comments brought his surly demeanour to the fore.
"I said in the beginning of the league that Goa should not have participated this year because when all other teams were preparing themselves, we were facing trials because of last year's fines. So when we started our season, the first thing that we looked at was who all we can keep from last year's team so that we can continue further, but by that time so many players who we wanted to keep had already signed for other teams, and by the time we got the green signal from the authorities that we could sign players, it had to be done in the last minute," Zico said.
"Also, if there weren't bad decisions from the referees in crucial games in the beginning of the season, things would have been much better and we could probably have been there in the top four. Due to the fact that we could not pick our choice of players, we had to pick some players who had injury problems, so instead of starting with them we had to make them recover first and then play. So if we are going to start a season in a bad way, it's going to end in a bad way."
A litany of excuses. In a season where Zico has not been good at quite a few things, he has managed to attain a strange mastery at finding people or things to blame. At times, his irascibility has threatened to leave even Jose Mourinho behind. It has been a frustrating descent into failure for a man who led the way in the previous seasons of the Indian Super League (ISL).
On Sunday, again, Zico blamed the little recovery time his side had following the match against Atletico de Kolkata on Thursday. Although Goa have laid out a 3-5-2 set-up in previous matches, the players in the starting eleven against Dynamos were fielded in the system for the first time, according to Zico. Remarkably, after the match, the Brazilian manager went on to make another extraordinary claim.
"I think there is a lot of balance in this league. We can see by the results. You can see the team at the top is Mumbai City FC, the only team we did not lose to. Some matches we could have drawn and some we could have won, so I don't think Delhi are the best. All teams are equal."
There was nothing to suggest that on Sunday, though. Even leaving aside the flawed logic at work in Zico's mind, Goa have been the worst team in the league. Such has been the team's run this season that very few will miss them. Now that Goa's fate is sealed, it may seem that Bela Guttmann's 'Three-year Rule' (the former Hungarian footballer and coach never managed a club for more than three years, as he thought the third year would be ‘fatal’) was at play. For Goa, it seems the third year is indeed fatal. The forces of entropy encircled Zico after two flourishing campaigns.
The manager felt disrespected after the loss to Atletico on Thursday, such was the lack of organisation shown by his side. "Everybody wanted to be the hero today," he said after that match. Zico could not say the same on Sunday. His team lacked organisation and leaders. Surely, that is a comment on the way he has managed Goa this season.
Zico's opposite number Gianluca Zambrotta, on the other hand, had much to be pleased about. Once again, Dynamos overwhelmed their opposition with their attacking prowess. The last two matches have seen Zambrotta's side score eight goals. In all, they have amassed 26 strikes. The tournament's top scorer is Dynamos' Marcelinho, with eight goals.
Three of the octet arrived on Sunday as the Brazilian overwhelmed Goa's defence. Marcelinho not only outdid the opposition with his pace but also with the deftness of his feet. This was evident in his third goal of the night when he turned Debabrata Roy inside out to leave him stranded. It would be tough to keep Marcelinho away from the Player of the Tournament award.
Zambrotta would have drawn further joy from Richard Gadze's display which ended with two goals. The Ghanaian often tends to be profligate but he took on the role of a calm finisher on Sunday. As we approach the business end of the tournament, things seem to be falling in place for the Dynamos.
With two away matches to come, Zambrotta's side are more or less assured of a spot in the semifinals. A draw in the next match against NorthEast United will confirm Dynamos' advance to the playoffs. With a settled side in place which is comfortable with the Italian manager's methods, everyone around the club will wish that no unfortunate disruption occurs in the squad.
On Sunday, Zambrotta fielded his strongest side with the sole exception of Sana Singh who is still recovering from injury. The inclusion of David Addy in his place meant that Toni Doblas had to make way for Soram Poirei in goal, so that the restriction on foreigners in the starting eleven to be met. The rhythm and control displayed by the players who were selected would have only boosted Zambrotta's confidence. His side have adapted to the needs of the manager and the competition. Now it is about ensuring the playoffs do not see a shift from the established route.
Published Date: Nov 28, 2016 12:10 PM | Updated Date: Nov 28, 2016 12:10 PM