Taking on FC Goa was the fourth game for ATK after two consecutive wins and a draw against Delhi Dynamos. Goa’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is not as big as the Salt Lake but enthusiasm for football is certainly not lacking amongst the Goans. They flocked to the Nehru stadium in hordes and strained their vocal chords in cheering their heroes. And when Goa opened the scoring 21 minutes into the kick-off, their joy knew no bounds as the stadium erupted with a celebratory crescendo. Brazilian star Andre Santos collected a long pass from Miranda and found the target to take Goa to the 1-0 lead. But two goals in 72nd and 82nd minutes spoiled Goa’s party as ATK finished their fourth game to collect 10 points overall and held their place at the top of the table.
Goa Co-owner Virat Kohli was amongst the spectators on Thursday as the match began. Despite their good game in earlier matches, Goa was still hunting for their first win in the Hero ISL but they were not overawed by table toppers ATK, who didn’t have their Marquee player Luis Garcia. The star player was yet to fully recover from the hamstring injury, he suffered in an earlier game. There was an added enthusiasm among spectators as the match was played on Diwali, India’s festival of colors and crackers. ATK made the first move in raiding the Goa goal in the 5th minute. After the danger was averted, Goa took the ball in ATK’s half, where they were awarded a free-kick when Pires was brought down by ATK’s Jofre. Santos sent a nicely curling kick inside the box but the move was foiled by an ATK defender. In the initial minutes, ATK appeared to have an upper hand in mounting the attacks. But ATK also became a little physical at this stage. Borja Fernandes received a yellow card for an objectionable tackle on Santos. Borja was also red-carded in an earlier game when ATK played with 10 in the closing stages against Guwahati. In a great combined move made by Goa in the 21st minute, Ranti Martins was able to relay a ball to Clifford Miranda from the right. Miranda, in turn saw Santos charging into the box and sent a long cross to him. The Brazilian measured his position for a while before unleashing a controlled and powerful volley that shook the net on the upper corner. The Goans went into joyous raptures after the home side took a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later, Goa attacked again, when Pires broke into the 18-yard box but his distant effort not only lacked pace but the aim was wrong as well. For ATK, Cavin tried to suit a ball into the goal from a distance but the closest the got was to earn a wasted corner. The teams took the breather with Goa leading 1-0 in the game.
The second half started with ATK looking for the equalizer in early minutes. But Goa also tried to consolidate their lead. In the 52nd minute, Gabriel charged into the box by making his way past one defender but another one blocked him quite adequately. Gabriel went down to pressurize the referee for a non-existent penalty award. Then Cavin made another move from the left flank and succeeded in sending a lovely cross to Fikru, who took the ball on his chest but his stinging shot went over the crossbar. In a superb move by Goa, Andre Santos ran with the ball from midfield and after dodging two defenders, passed the ball to Martins but the forward was called off side. Goa got another goal-scoring chance in the 69th minute, when Santos took a short free-kick to pass the ball to Peter. The forward slammed hard towards the goalkeeper but the goalkeeper didn’t make a clean save and the spilled ball rolled back to Peter yet again. This time Peter shot better and the goalkeeper had to dive. But the goal didn’t come. Four minutes later, ATK’s efforts were fructified, when Cavin Lobo was involved in a counter attack by ATK. Star striker Fikru crafted a nicely-carved chip that found Lobo on the run leaving two Goa defenders on his trail. Lobo took just a few steps up and thumped the ball at the back of the net. Eleven minutes later, once again it was Lobo, who collected a loosely cleared free kick and a cracked a powerful left-footed volley behind the goalkeeper for his second goal. In a space of 10-12 minutes, ATK snatched the initiative from Goa won the game 2-1.
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