The winger along with Ishan Pandita spoke ahead of their crucial encounter against Mumbai City FC.

As FC Goa prepare to face Mumbai City FC in the first leg of the Indian Super League playoffs, their sixth appearance, the onus is on a lot of players to step in and deliver during this time of need. Chief among them are Indian stalwarts Redeem Tlang and Ishan Pandita.

Redeem would be expected to maintain his high energy and relentless offense he has maintained during the last few matches, while Ishan who is likely to feature from the bench, will be relied on to produce goals when it is paramount for the Gaurs. Both the youngsters answered questions from the press on the eve of their much-awaited encounter.

Redeem Tlang on facing Mumbai City

An interesting challenge awaits the former NorthEast United winger. “It is the semi-finals. Any team can beat any team. It is an important match for both. Both teams want to win. We are ready for it and look forward to the challenge that is coming ahead,” he quoted.

Red card against the Islanders

The first match he started this season ended with dire consequences as the winger got sent off. The match ended in favour of the Islanders due to a last-minute penalty. Speaking of it, Redeem Tlang said, “It was hard. After the match, everything went down for me. It was hard for me to get back. I am finally back playing and happy about it. I hope I can keep continuing to play for the club. And I wish we can win the semi-finals and go to the finals.”

Upper hand in the first match

Despite the head-to-head records leaning towards Mumbai this season, the winger believes that FC Goa were the better team during longer stretches. “In my opinion in the first match, we were controlling the whole match despite the red card. We had better opportunity and better chances. But the semi-finals will be a different match. It will be crucial.”

Learning from the senior figures around

Several senior foreign players from the team have adapted to life in the bubble. They have become figureheads for the younger players to rally behind. Redeem Tlang reflected on the same saying, “I have learned a lot this season playing with the foreign players. We are keeping the ball very well. It has been a good learning experience for me this season. I am hoping to keep learning from them as they are very good players. Everyday is a learning process.”

A challenging season

Unlike the last few years, this year the Gaurs had to leave it late to qualify for the playoffs. Redeem Tlang attributes it to the extensive changes within the squad. “Changes are difficult. It is difficult to adapt. When you look at the team then, the coach had left and almost all foreigners, who were key, had left. The core of the team had left. We made it to the playoffs. The struggle was a bit difficult in the beginning, but now we are finally here. We are hoping that we can take the team forward, win the next match and go to the finals,” he concluded.

Contributions during the season

Despite the lack of playing time, Ishan Pandita has come up clutch scoring whenever his team has a requirement for the same. His goals have always had positive changes in terms of points gained, a spectacular feat. “You can always look at it in two ways. I have hardly played football. But I have contributed with four very important goals that pushed us into the playoffs. I am excited that we have the semis and the finals coming up and the team has done a fantastic job. We have been pushing and have finally made it. I feel good and am looking to put some good performance against Mumbai.”

On Mumbai City FC’s threat

Mumbai City FC will be an interesting challenge for the Gaurs. Especially with several personnel dynamics involved. Ishan Pandita explained, “Mumbai play football just like us. It will definitely be a tough game. They like to move the ball around. With the addition of (Hugo) Boumous, they would be a bit more of a threat to us. We have a few injuries and (Alberto) Noguera can’t play, but we will try our best to beat them.”

Juan Ferrando’s influence

Juan Ferrando has created wonders with the squad at his disposal at FC Goa. Speaking about his opinion on the Spaniard’s influence, Pandita said, “Juan is a very good coach. I am thankful to him for the effort and attention he has given to me during the training. Juan has his own way. I have been doing my best in training to develop myself under his style of play. I am improving every day and I am hoping to get some more minutes on the field.”

Igor Angulo – The Mentor

Playing with one of the league’s premier strikers in Igor Angulo has been a real treat for Pandita. “Igor is fantastic. We get along very well. We are on two different spectrums of our careers. I pick up a lot from him. He helps me on and off the field as well. I hope he wins the Golden Boot. I am just trying to learn from him. He is a great goalscorer,” the youngster concluded.

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