5 years of FC Goa: Season 5, Gaurs crowned Super Cup champions
At 9:43 pm on a hot and humid evening night in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, a young man from Benaulim named Brandon Fernandes had an idea. He played the ball to FC Goa’s talisman Ferran Corominas and decided to make a run behind the Chennaiyin defence after Coro had dragged a defender with him.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“It was towards the end and the weather conditions meant that the defenders would be tired. Heck, I was tired,” recalls Brandon. “We had done it many times in practice and my first instinct was to make a run for it and hope for the best.”
With Coro around of course, hope is more often than not rewarded.
And so it was secured – about half an hour later. This was not the improbable or the unthinkable but a final vindication; the exclamation to another campaign that had seen FC Goa sternly etch their names amongst not only the most entertaining sides in India but also one that was indeed special.
For two seasons, FC Goa had nearly everything and yet nothing. The highest scorers in the league with 84 goals from 41 games in those two years, the Gaurs were arguably the most entertaining footballing team for viewing in the Indian subcontinent – both at the stadium and live viewing on any device that suits you.
Heck, you could even make a case for watching their games on a re-run.
There was subjective progress characterised not only by the football they played under Sergio Lobera but also two semi-final appearances in the Indian Super League and Super Cup in his first season. That, of course, was followed by a trip to the final in the 2018-19 season, only for a 116th-minute goal to bring the campaign to nought.
The legacy, though left behind was one of the several ‘nearly there’ teams. What was missing was a trophy.
“A final is always a special match but I wasn’t nervous,” states Coro. “We all knew that if we played our game we would get enough chances to win.”
Heading into the final, one thing that the Gaurs were not short of was confidence. Sergio Lobera’s men had pumped in 10 goals in the three games leading to the final.
The disappointments from the loss in the ISL final were nothing but an afterthought. Then again, this was another final – a hurdle they were yet to cross yet.
For all the great work that the club has done at the youth level and the praises they had garnered for their panache in the ISL, they still didn’t have a trophy to show for it. This was an opportunity to do so.
For youngster Saviour Gama, this was even more special. “What I really was looking forward to was facing Francisco Fernandes. We studied in same school – Regina Mundi High School. I had seen him become a star and win the ISL. He was really popular in our locality and here I was up against him; on the same pitch,” recollects the young left-back.
The 1st Half
“I know people get very edgy before these games, you know,” exclaims Edu Bedia, looking back at the game. “But considering the kind of season we had so far, we were quite confident that if we play to our potential, we would be coming away with the trophy.”
The opening salvos were certainly not ones that would make FC Goa fans sit back and relax. Chennaiyin managed to carve out four clear-cut chances in the first half an hour, but thanks to a combination of poor finishing and a vigilant Mohammad Nawaz, the game remained on level pegging.
“I remember we were under a lot of pressure in the opening minutes. Chennaiyin were attacking very well that night,” remembers Carlos Peña. “They helped themselves to a number of set pieces and their whole body language was different from when we had played them in the ISL. They arrived at the ground high on confidence and I knew, we were going to have a tough fight on our hands.”
The Gaurs did ease themselves into the game as time went on and certainly by the time, the referee blew for half-time, it was them on the ascendancy.
But with neither side able to get that elusive finish – the night was set to be decided
It was still for the Gaurs to prove that they were indeed capable of standing up to the pressure.
The 2nd Half
The second forty-five saw the Gaurs start off strong and come the 50th minute, they had cut open Chennaiyin with intricate passing along with delightful movement. The opening goal though remained an inch or two away.
It was Edu Bedia, who had the opportunity to give FC Goa the lead early on in the second half after Hugo Boumous and Coro had teed him up at the edge of the box. His effort, though, rattled the crossbar before going out.
That disappointment, however, didn’t last for long. A brilliant bit of play in the middle helped set off Hugo Boumous on the right. Whilst his shot was parried, Coro was on hand to bundle home the rebound.
“That was a relief, really. We were dominating the game and we really deserved it,” exclaims Edu.
And just when Sergio Lobera and co. thought that the Gaurs were getting into their stride, Chennaiyin hit back within seconds via Raphael Augusto.
“We really thought that the first goal would be crucial, but we really didn’t get to enjoy that,” states Peña. “They hit back so quickly.”
The Gaurs, to their credit, didn’t let their shoulders drop and eventually hit – what turned out to be the winner – a few minutes later.
“Brandon is a clever player. He played the ball to me and made a run immediately,” tells Coro. “I could see a passing lane and put it in for him to do the rest. To his credit, he did it brilliantly.”
“It was a beautiful ball, you know,” states Brandon. “It had the perfect weight on it. I knew the defender was beside me. I could feel him breathing down my neck and knew I had to take it first time. The angle was narrow and although I didn’t see the keeper come, I anticipated him to rush off his line. I knew I had to hit the target and that really worked out well for me.”
Aside from a late strike on the FC Goa crossbar by Eli Sabia, the Gaurs held fort.
“Winning trophies is what you dream about, and to do it for your home team was extra special,” states Brandon.
“I was really, really happy. That victory was a sort of vindication for all of us,” says Peña. “All the people of the staff and the club were euphoric and we realised that it wasn’t just a normal trophy, because it was the first one.
“We were so eager to get our hands on one and the feeling when we came out at the airport to show the trophy to our fans, it was all worth it.”