FC Goa began in storming fashion in their home game against Pune City FC on Saturday and took a 1-0 lead within the first six minutes by a goal scored by striker Romeo Fernandes. In a heightened tempo of game thereafter, both teams played spirited football much to the delight of the large crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. In the injury time, Goa enhanced their lead to 2-0, when Goa’s Czech recruit Miroslav Slepicka scored another goal for the home side. By their victory, Goa has avenged their earlier defeat against Pune. Incidentally, Goa had lost to FC Pune City by the same margin in their first-leg match.
Just as the match began, the hosts launched a fierce attack on the visitor’s goal area. Their passing was accurate and the forwards moved ahead purposefully. The Pune goalkeeper was put to test in the opening minute itself, when Zohib Amiri sent a perfect floating cross inside the box but Arindam Bhattacharya rose to his full height and tipped the ball over the crossbar for a corner. Two minutes later, Goa got a free kick on the right flank, which was taken by Andre Santos. As the ball came in front of the goal, the sprightly Romeo Fernandes was quick to head it into the net and FC Goa went into a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. A little while later, Goa won another free-kick but this time, Arindam Bhattacharya managed to fend it away. In a counter soon afterwards, Pune’s Park Kwang-Il almost found the equalizer, after he received a great lofted pass from Kostas Katsouranis but the Goa custodian used his finger tips to clear the goal-bound shot. In the 20th minute, Goa got another scoring opportunity, when Ozbey was in a great position for a high and long pass but he couldn’t stop cleanly and a chance went abegging. Santos got another free-kick for Goa in the 29th minute, but the alert Pune custodian tipped it over the bar yet again. With 9 minutes to go in the first half, Goa’s Mandar Rao Desai was served a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. In the 39th minute, Pune got another scoring chance but Lenny Rodrigues was too impatient as he shot the ball straight into the hands of the goal-keeper Seda. Five minutes later, FC Goa went into the Pune territory in a counter attack but Pune defenders denied them. The teams took the break with score reading 1-0 in favor of Goa.
As the game began in the second half, Pune City searched for the elusive equalizer but Goa looked more aggressive and didn’t allow the visitors any pleasure. Pune coach Franco Colomba tried to sharpen the attack by introducing Joachim Abranches for the first time in the competition. Until now, Abranches was nursing an injury and had been unable to play. Abranches’ entry into the field rejuvenated Pune, as the visitors launched a few attacks immediately after his arrival. One such attempt came from Katsouranis, who made an acrobatic shot to the goal but to his misfortune, the ball could only rattle the crossbar. This was the closest equalizing opportunity for Pune in the second half. But Katsouranis was wrongly brought down and play stopped for a while. After a minute when the play resumed, Goa wrested control and attacked the Pune goal but they could not enhance their lead. Pune got another golden opportunity, when Pennant was able to send a wonderful cross but Abranches’ header was far wide off the target. Two minutes later, Pune got a corner but Katsouranis wasted the opportunity by sending the ball out of play. In the closing stages, Goa’s Andre Santos was yellow-carded. In the 82nd minute, Pune got a corner but they couldn’t make use of the chance even as a shot from a Pune striker was cleared by a Goa defender. Goa’s coach made some tactical substitutions as he brought Clifford Miranda, Miroslav Slepicka and Jewel Raja. After this, Goa came up with some promising attacks on the Pune goal. In the injury time, Miroslav Slepicka got a lovely cross from Jewel Raja and he didn’t err in finding the target as Goa went into an unassailable 2-0 lead with hardly any time left.
With three wins in their last four games, Goa have stormed into the top half of the table by displacing Mumbai City FC to fifth on goal difference. Pune City are level with Goa and Mumbai, but they are sixth due to inferior goal difference. Now Goa play Kerala Blasters at home on November 26 while Pune will have a home game against Atletico de Kolkata on November 29.
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