Football fans experienced yet another thrilling encounter in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2015 on Wednesday when FC Goa took on Atletico de Kolkata at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa.
Although the match ended in a 1-1 draw, there was plenty of action to talk about. How can a match be not exciting when two of the most fiercest rivals of ISL clash against each other!
Arata Izumi broke the deadlock in the 12th minute of the game. Javi Lara's cross came in from the right, and there were two players present inside the box, Izumi and Iain Hume. Either of them could have tucked it in but Izumi was the first one to strike to the ball and he finished it with precision.
FC Goa launched attack after attack in search of the equaliser, but Atletico de Kolkata's defence denied the home side of several possible goals. Their man-marking was pretty good in the first half of the game. Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai, two of FC Goa's wing-wizards were kept quite throughout the first 45 minutes of the high-voltage match. People were in doubt before the start of the match whether Denzil Franco can handle the pace of the wingers, but he did handle them with ease.
Zico's tactics were quite clear in the second half of the game - all out attack! Even the defenders were taking wild shots. Atletico de Kolkata too had their share of chances but FC Goa's defence, which is led by the big Lucio and Gregory Arnolin, was too strong to breach.
The complexion of the game changed further when Atletico de Kolkata forward Baljit Sahni engaged himself in an argument with Arnolin. That immediately reminded us of the Fikru-Arnolin altercation from the first edition of the ISL, when Fikru was sent off for headbutting the FC Goa defender. And on Wednesday too, Sahni made the same mistake of headbutting Arnolin and was sent off, leaving Atletico de Kolkata down to 10 men.
The visitors' defensive line became even more fragile and FC Goa continued with their attacking spree. However, they were wayward at times, but they did not give up. Lucio's header in the 77th minute of the game hit the post as well. Zico's men in blue would have felt unlucky not to have collected any points from this game when they had a man advantage.
"In the first half, we gave away the ball easily. We did create a lot of opportunities, but we were reckless in trying to force a result. The number of bad passes was higher. We played better in the second half and got a lot of chances on goal, but their keeper did a good job," Zico said at the post-match press conference.
Jofre was lurking around the box throughout the game. His understanding with Mandar Rao Dessai and, later, with Jonathan Lucca was outstandng. In the 82nd minute of the game, Jofre curled in a dangerous ball which the Atletico de Kolkata defenders failed to clear and Keenan Almeida blasted it from the edge of the box, leaving goalkeeper Amrinder Singh with no chance whatsoever.
Atletico de Kolkata coach Antonio Lopez Habas seemed happy after earning a point from this crucial encounter as up next they will have to face the upbeat Kerala Blasters on 13 October at the Saltlake Stadium in Kolkata.
"Chennai and Goa were two very tough away fixtures, and we got four points. Ideally I'd love to get six, but four is pretty good. All we can do is play our football. I have to recover my team and look forward. Sure, the games are always tense. But the stats are in our favour, so I am happy," Habas told the reporters.