The Gaurs will face Bengaluru FC in the showpiece on Sunday.
FC Goa succumbed to a defeat in Goa to Mumbai City, but qualified for the final owing to their brilliant first leg performance in Mumbai. Rafael Bastos scored in the sixth minute to give Mumbai hope, but the Goan defence stood resolute and let nothing else in after the initial goal. With a 5-2 scoreline, the Gaurs got a deserved place in the showpiece, to be held in Mumbai, where they will face Bengaluru FC.
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Watch: FC Goa 0-1 Mumbai City FC highlights
Here are the key points of the tie:
5. Jackichand redefining the role of a traditional pacy winger
It is one thing to have the tools to succeed and another to use them wisely. This season has been a breakout one for the Indian winger, with the former Salgaocar man mercilessly out playing opponents. A winger who demands the ball a lot was a key factor in Goa’s rampant first leg victory in Mumbai and it is his presence that limited the offensive attributes of the Islanders’ full-backs. His never-ending energy and ruthlessness have killed off ties and Sergio Lobera has used him very wisely.
Unlike normal wingers, who generally stay away from the ball and use the width to effectively utilize their pace, Jackichand gets involved in the build-up with his crisp passing technique is a vital cog in Goa’s style of play. He makes the necessary runs and this season his crossing also has gone up a notch. It will be interesting to see how Bengaluru limit his influence.
4. Lack of physicality amongst Indian players a growing concern
It is not surprising to see foreign players turn out to be key for their clubs. They have been a vital part for their teams, delivering very good performances. But, it is very concerning how they physically dominate the Indian players. Strikers like Miku and Bartholomew Ogbeche have used their physical presence to a great extent, especially against Indian defenders.
Mumbai City’s loss against Goa clearly demonstrated this. Mourtada Fall got the better of his marker twice in the first leg to score. The situation has become so obvious that teams have resorted to using two foreign centre-backs to combat the physicality of opposition attackers.
3. A tasty midfield battle awaits in Mumbai
Lenny Rodrigues, up against his former team and Ahmed Jahouh will be looking to exert their complete dominance on the pitch against Bengaluru. With Edu Bedia too involved in the build-up, Bengaluru’s midfield duo of Alex Barrera and Dimas Delgado will have their work cut out.
The offensive capabilities of the duo will be limited, particularly due to the threat posed by the Gaurs’ midfield. Both Jahouh and Lenny were very comfortable against the three-man midfield of Mumbai, passing and creating chances with ease. With Erik Paartalu unavailable, the onus will be on his replacement Barrera, to preventing the Goan duo from influencing affairs on the pitch.
2. Full-backs the key for Goa
Goa’s playing style has been lauded for its offensive potential and entertainment value. One key piece of this lies with the full-backs. Both Seriton Fernandes and Mandar Rao Desai have emerged as the load-bearing points of balance, within Lobera’s highly ball-oriented system. The full-backs have to be offensively efficient and defensively solid throughout the 90 minutes and Seriton and Mandar have been doing just that for the Gaurs.
Especially, against Mumbai, the two goals they conceded came due to lapses of concentration in the full-back position and they need to be at their very best to prevent Bengaluru from snatching the title. Offensively, the width they offer has provided a really good outlet to build-up play, especially when the middle is crowded. Their crossing has improved but it has to be near flawless in the final to assure their first title. With Bengaluru’s tendency to attack the full-backs through Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh, Mandar and Seriton need to be completely ready.
1. Past demons exorcised by Goa in semi-final victory
With a grinding 1-0 loss against Mumbai that gave them the victory on aggregate, Lobera’s Goa have made a statement. They have come a long way from the disappointing exit at the hands of Chennaiyin FC last season. The side with several core players retained have looked more mature and sensible this campaign and have looked ruthless when given the chance.
This maturity was given a boost when Goa managed four clean-sheets in the last five matches, dispelling all notions that the side is weak defensively. Despite having lost both the matches against Bengaluru this season, Lobera will be full of confidence as his team has embraced his philosophy with a clear understanding. With a historic final looming, Goa will hope to completely heal from last season and put forth a memorable performance to win the title.