ISL 2019-20: With momentum on their side, FC Goa look to turn tables on Bengaluru FC in clash of titans
It will be as much a test of temperament as it will be of tactical supremacy. While recent history may be on Bengaluru FC’s side, the onus lies on them as well, to turn the tables and put a halt to FC Goa’s unrelenting pursuit for the Indian Super League title.
A rehash of last season’s finale, this fixture has always been dominated by goals and red cards, with the Gaurs ending up on the losing side more often than not
While it has been a stop-and-start campaign for Carles Cuadrat’s boys, the visitors are on a roll, laying down early markers for supremacy in India’s top division.
FC Goa's attractive brand of fluid, possession-based football has always made them a favourite among the neutrals, but recently, they have demonstrated a certain element of steel as well
The defending champions host the table-toppers – a clash of the titans is in the offing at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the Indian Super League steps into the new decade with Bengaluru FC taking on FC Goa on Friday. While it has been a stop-and-start campaign for Carles Cuadrat’s boys, the visitors are on a roll, laying down early markers for supremacy in India’s top division.
A rehash of last season’s finale, this fixture has always been dominated by goals and red cards, with the Gaurs ending up on the losing side more often than not. Since their win over the Bangalore-based club in the first-ever ill-tempered meeting between these two teams, Goa have struggled to rein them in. In the six matches between the two teams, Bengaluru have won four with just one loss and the other one ending in a draw. The latest encounter poses to be a perfect opportunity to change that statistic. After all, FC Goa has won four matches on the trot, scoring ten goals in their last four games.
With twenty-two goals scored, Goa’s forwards are enjoying a good run, with veteran Ferran Corominas, the Gaur’s ever-reliant goalscoring machine, leading the list scoring seven goals. Their attractive brand of fluid, possession-based football has always made them a favourite among the neutrals, but Lobera’s side have demonstrated a certain element of steel as well, finishing on top in the closely-fought matches and killing off games even in periods of play when they haven’t dominated.
That is something which cannot be said about Cuadrat’s team this season – Bengaluru FC may have lost just two of their ten matches so far, but it is their four draws which have hurt them more. Struggling to create goalscoring chances with skipper Sunil Chettri starved off service and goals, Bengaluru FC have cut a sorry figure while trying to build attacks. Their otherwise solid defense has come under the scanner as well, letting goals slip through at crucial junctures of play – Bengaluru FC’s most recent 1-0 loss at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan is a stark example of how much the club have struggled to replicate last season’s standard of performances.
“I don't feel we are doing bad work. We are creating more chances per game than anyone else. It's just a matter of taking those chances,” Cuadrat told reporters in his pre-match press conference, but his side have scored the least number of goals among the top six ISL clubs this season. The Bengaluru FC manager’s nonchalant attitude may well be meaning to deflect pressure away from his forwards, but unless the champions pick up their slack in front of the goal, they might find it extremely difficult going forward.
Goals are not a problem for the Gaurs, who are topping the charts on that aspect too, but discipline certainly is, already having notched up three red cards – the most of any club in this edition. And they could have had more, if not for some lenient officiating in certain games. Or as Cuadrat was quick to point out, “I love the way Goa play. It's a wonderful team. It's very nice to watch any game of football that Goa play. But at the same time, they are clever, taking advantage of some situations that referees should punish,” before adding, “They have four players – Seriton Fernandes, Mourtada Fall, Lenny Rodrigues and Ahmed Jahouh – who a lot of times should get a second yellow card and be out of the game. But maybe because the referees don't understand those kinds of tricks – which we as professionals can see very clearly – they keep playing and playing. They are doing things that are out of the rules but there is no punishment for that.”
They have however faced punishment for losing their cool often. Their manager Sergio Lobera will be forced to attend their upcoming encounter from the stands and not the touchline courtesy a second yellow card after full-time against Chennaiyin FC last month – one which the entire FC Goa management dubbed as unfair.
It will be as much a test of temperament as it will be of tactical supremacy. While recent history may be on Bengaluru FC’s side, the onus lies on them as well, to turn the tables and put a halt to FC Goa’s unrelenting pursuit for the Indian Super League title. Sergio Lobera’s absence from the touchline is surely a big miss for the visitors, but they remain unfazed.
“We are going to face one of the best teams in the ISL. It's a big match for us but I think in the situation right now, the pressure is on them. We have five points between us. We can go to Bengaluru with confidence and if we can get three points, the gap will increase to eight points,” FC Goa’s assistant coach Jesus Tato opined.
Considering Bengaluru’s hassles season, the Gaurs’ upbeat attitude heading into the New Year is mostly warranted – for anything but a completely disastrous display from the visitors will trouble the Blues who are in dire need of inspiration and miracles to turn their fortunes around in the big games this season.
The ISL said it will reschedule the match to a later date.
Nishu Kumar (28th) and Harmanjot Khabra (40th) netted first-half goals to keep the Kerala juggernaut rolling. Kerala now have 20 points from 11 games while Odisha, who remain in eighth place, have 13 in their kitty from 10 matches.
Danish Farooq (8’) gave the Blues an early lead which was extended to three by Prince Ibara (23’, 45’) who scored a first-half brace with two towering headed goals.