FC Goa vs. ATK Preview: Smile because it happened

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” ― Dr. Seuss

Goa has always made a mark on the Indian map when it comes to the culinary side of things. Last year was, however, a telling one as it served up not only sumptuous dishes on the plates but also on the football ground.

With Sergio Lobera conducting the orchestra from the side and the likes of Coro, Manuel Lanzarote, Edu Bedia, Ahmed Jahouh and Mandar Rao Dessai executing his plans to perfection, they became the darling of the Indian footballing scene.

Records were broken along with thousands of opposing fans’ hearts as the Gaurs ran rampage on the footballing grounds across India. 42 goals in the league phase made for a heady concoction of flair and brilliance on the field going forward.

This felt like the formation of the Justice League of Goa.

Ferran Corominas (lest we forget his full name), aka Coro was certainly the king - the Superman of the side with 18 goals to boast of his brilliance. And if he was the Superman of the team, Manuel Lanzarote was inarguably the Batman.

The Spaniard left behind an indelible mark in his one year here in Goa as he finished the season with 13 goals – some of which were acts of sheer adventure combined with class.

All good things do come to an end and the Lanzarote’s move in the summer to ATK signalled the end of what could have grown from something that was truly beautiful into something wondrous.

On Thursday, 14th February – the Spaniard will again acquaintance himself with his old love as he takes to the pitch at the Fatorda for the first time since 10th March, 2018.

All of Goa will remember surely remember Lanzarote for his brilliance as a Gaur. We are not sad that it’s over. We are happy that it happened.

The challenge ahead

The race for the top four is getting hotter by the minute as only 4 points separate the teams from 2nd to 5th. FC Goa has perennially been in the top four this season and that sees no change heading into this game. Although, any slip up at this juncture of the season can certainly prove to be costly.

Then again, the Gaurs go into the game at back of four games without a defeat and three without having conceded a goal. Another thing that should give Goa confidence heading into the game is the fact that three of the last four games are at their own backyard whilst they also have a game (2 in some cases) over their direct rivals.

On the other hand, for ATK it is nearly ‘do or die’ as their late resurgence this season might not be enough to save grace. Their dreams of qualifying for the last four now stand on slim legs as they might have to win all three of their remaining games.

ATK come into this game at the end of a three-game unbeaten run themselves, but with Goa going full throttle as well, the visitors might arguably have to play their best game of the season to pull out the bunny from the hat.

Gaffer’s call

On being asked about FC Goa’s possibility of winning all four games to top the table, FC Goa’s head coach Sergio Lobera stated, “Right now I have only one target and that is to win tomorrow. We will go into the game like every other game - thinking of getting all three points. I always look at draws as a negative. Sometimes in games, circumstances can be such that you end up celebrating a point from a draw but right now as I speak, I see it as a negative.”

Goa has managed to keep three clean sheets in as many games heading into this one. Speaking on whether the Gaurs have sacrificed their sense of adventure going forward to get more solidarity at the back, Lobera quipped, “It’s always about finding the balance. We have 5 points from the last three points. I would enjoyed if it was rather 6 than 5.”

The gaffer, however, refused to speak on any player from ATK.

“I would rather speak about my players. We have to beat a team tomorrow. A very good team and not any individual,” the Spaniard added. “But I would say that Edu Garcia is in really good form.”

Stats and Facts

  • Two of the games between the sides were played in the two legged semi-finals of the inaugural season of the ISL. The Gaurs were eliminated by ATK that season via penalties after both games finished 0-0.
  • In 12 games played between the two sides, 7 have ended in draws
  • Coro scored in both legs of the fixture last season
  • Goa’s goalless draw against ATK in the first leg was the first time an FC Goa side under Sergio Lobera had failed to score in a game
  • Manuel Lanzarotte has the opportunity to become the first man in history to score for both the sides in this fixture
  • Goa’s inaugural win over ATK came last season when they thrashed the two-time champions 5-1 at the Fatorda stadium