“Goa doesn’t have a foot in the final, they have a half a body there,” earmarked Star Sports pundit Paul Masefield following FC Goa’s 5-1 triumph over Mumbai City FC in the first leg of the semi-final.
Yes, there is no denying that people will put the Gaurs as favourites to get into the mega final on 17th March following their convincing win over the Islanders on Saturday night.
It was the first time any team scored five goals in an ISL playoff game and also the first time a team will be carrying a four-goal advantage heading into the second leg. The signs certainly look promising.
Heading into their first on-field training session following the win, Sergio Lobera, however had a word of caution for the whole team. “We always respect our opponents and Mumbai should treat no differently in the second leg,” stated the Spaniard. “We need to keep our focus on this game and drive home the advantage. We have seen funnier things happen in football. You need to remember how Barcelona came back from being 4-0 down against PSG. This is not over yet.”
The Challenge Ahead
“Our season is over,” stated a disconsolate Jorge Costa following their loss in the first leg. “I don’t believe in miracles but we will not be going to Goa thinking that we can turn this thing around.”
That statement was heavily stained with emotions of a result that would certainly be a disappointment for any coach.
Make no mistake, Mumbai have quality throughout their rank and were arguably the only team to really rattle the cages of eventual league-leaders and finalist Bengaluru FC in the group stage. In Modou Sougou, the Islanders have finally found a man to bag them the goals whilst the pair of Arnold Issoko and Rafael Bastos has proved to be a real handful on the wings.
Paulo Machado and Lucian Goian have proved to be spine of the team and have been ably surrounded by Indian internationals like Subhashish Bose and Amrinder Singh.
The team is replete with talent and two fivers against the Islanders should not lead to any misgiving that the second leg would be an easy one for the Gaurs.
The Gaffer’s Call
“I approach this game with full respect for our opponents because I believe them to be a great team,” stated Sergio Lobera at the pre-match press conference. “We are not in the final yet and if we go into the game thinking that we have already done our job, it would be a grave mistake on our parts.” “What we have achieved so far (12 goals against Mumbai over the 3 games this season) is already in the past. However, I feel what we have achieved in the past is going to help us in this game,” Lobera added. “What we have to is keep working in the same way we have been doing against them in these last games. And try and win our last game at home.”
Stats and facts