ISL 2019-20, NorthEast United vs FC Goa preview: Looking for validity

A hick-up there and a slip there and the questions are bound come ramming in. It’s the nature of the beast called football. And in a league such as the ISL, going without a win for three games would certainly arouse certain nasty thoughts and inevitably questions. 

You can say as much. In the end, you need to pen it down on the field for ninety-odd minutes and then some. The answers – given in the best form – in kind. 

FC Goa was in a similar position last season heading into a game against a NorthEast side that was beginning to turn heads and rightly so. A mini-stretch of bad results had the people doubting. In football, emotions can truly take over sometimes. 

So here it was, last game before the winter break against a confident side looking to make a mark at the Fatorda. 

By the time the final whistle was blown by the referee, the FC Goa faithful had their faith truly restored. A 5-1 win over the Highlanders gave them the momentum to carry into the second half of the season and started off a new era of defensive calm at the back as the defensive partnership of Carlos Peña and Mourtada Fall was born.

The win was more than just a mere three points. It was the return of belief in the camp and a resounding thumbs-up to the philosophy of football that FC Goa stood firmly by. 

A six-game unbeaten streak followed as the Gaurs romped up the gears to secure a place in the final four of last season’s ISL.

On Friday night, the Gaurs go up again against the Highlanders in a quest to get back to winning ways. Having started the season on a high-note against Chennaiyin with a resounding 3-0 win, a late penalty from Coro was needed to bring home a point in their last game at home to Bengaluru FC. 

Now away from home comforts for the first time this season, a stern test awaits last season’s runners-up as they go up against a NorthEast side buoyant in spirit and high on confidence. 

The Challenge Ahead

NorthEast come into the game having taken a lot of positives from their first two encounters of the season. The team have been able to keep some of the key components of last season’s team with them. And the familiarity seems to be paying dividends for them even under a new coach.

After beginning their campaign with a battling goalless draw against Bengaluru FC, Robert Jarni’s men toppled Odisha FC in their home opener on the 26th to be level on points with the Gaurs.

With Asamoah Gyan leading the charge at the front, one will be foolish to discard the threat possessed by the Highlanders. Add to it a mix of experience and quality in the midfield and you get a heady concoction for a team that knows how to eke out results. 

Having proven their validity once already this season away to Bengaluru FC, the NorthEast United side will look to again prove the doubters, if any, wrong when they head up against the winning-est side in the ISL.

The Gaffer’s Call

“NorthEast is a very good team. They have both experience and quality and Friday will be a very good tough game for us,” stated Head Coach Sergio Lobera before the game. 

“We did start the season well with a win against Chennaiyin FC, but the last game was a tough one against Bengaluru. They are a good side and tested us to the limits. We also showed that we are truly a side that doesn’t give up easily and we got a point out of that. I am very happy in that regard.”