The Gaurs were one of the most entertaining teams this campaign but fell short at the final hurdle in both competitions.
At the start of the new season, FC Goa were the hardest team to second guess. But, they lived up to expectations after qualifying for the semi-finals of both, the Indian Super League and Super Cup.
Goa started their season strongly with an away win over Chennaiyin FC and the fans were ecstatic to see a lot of improvement in their team. By the middle of the season, the Gaurs had grabbed 16 points out of a possible 27 and were sitting pretty content in the top four. it looked like this was the season, when, Goa can finally bring home the trophy.
But, just when they thought the rest of the season was going to be a walk in the park, their campaign turned completely upside down after a loss to Mumbai City at home. Goa had managed to grab only two points out of a possible 15 and slipped to the sixth position in the league. Now, with only three games remaining, it was a question of whether they could get back into their initial rhythm to qualify for the knockouts or not. Although the Gaurs made it back into the top four they were knocked out by eventual champions Chennaiyin FC in the playoffs.
In the inaugural Super Cup, Goa started their campaign against ATK. The game began with ATK on the front foot building up a couple of chances. After beating the Kolkata franchise, Goa went on to beat Jamshedpur FC, but were knocked out by East Bengal later in the semi-final.
Fact-Sheet for Indian Season 2017-18
Season Finished: 3rd
Games Played: 23
Win %: 47.8
A couple of players left and some new faces arrived at the franchise at the beginning of the season. The addition of a new head coach and an assistant coach at Goa strengthened their squad for the challenges ahead. This was the first time for head coach Sergio Lobera in India and he was assisted by one of the most successful coaches in Indian football, Derrick Pereira.
Lobera started his campaign with a sensible approach and made his team compete against stronger foreign teams in pre-season friendlies. Goa had an amazing foreign tour only to return to face the I-League teams, where he made good use of his local players to test their calibre.
Underperformer of the Season
Laxmikant Kattimani: Kattimani is one of the high-profile goalkeepers in Indian football, but somehow the 28-year-old was not able to make an impact on this campaign. After making several errors in the initial stages, he became a villain among the FC Goa fans. Because of his poor performances, Kattimani was able to play only 14 games this term where he failed to keep any clean-sheets.
No doubt, he had a saves percentage of 62.5, but he also conceded almost two goals per game. Right from the first game of the ISL, where he spilt the ball from Inigo Calderon’s free-kick and then brought down Jeje Lalpekhlua inside the box, he was consistently shoddy. After 10 games, Lobera decided to keep the off-form goalkeeper on the bench. He then played four games, out of which two were in the Super Cup.
Kattimani’s Performance in Indian Football Season 2017-18
Goals Conceded: 27
Goals conceded/Game: 1.71
Save Percentage: 62.5%
Top 3 Performances
FC Goa 5-1 ATK (Report and highlights)
Delhi Dynamos 1-5 FC Goa (Report and highlights)
Pune 0-4 FC Goa (Report and highlights)
Manager’s Report Card
On a scale of one to 10, Sergio Lobera deserves a 6.5 or a 7. The former Barcelona academy youth coach was signed by FC Goa after the departure of their former head coach Zico. Initially, the fans and the management were not sure about his attitude and adaptability to Indian football. This led to the Gaurs signing the local mastermind, Derrick Pereira as his assistant coach to make sure the Spaniard gets well-accustomed with the football culture in India.
As the season advanced, Lobera showed good signs of enhancement and provided an aggressive and attacking football for which the fans were longing for. But, the entire campaign changed after the loss to Mumbai at home. The foreign players he signed failed to perform up to the standards due to fatigue and Lobera didn’t have any ‘Plan B’ to rectify that.
Also, his stubborn tactics and refusal to use certain players in the time of need played a major role in the setbacks suffered in latter games. But somehow, he turned the cards around and sealed a playoffs spot by finishing in the third position in the league.
Lessons to be Learned
It was a long campaign for FC Goa but thankfully it wasn’t all disappointment like the last season where they finished at the bottom of the table. They must now look to move on and make sure that they finish comfortably in the top four so that they don’t need to worry too much about the last few games. They need a consistent performance plan si that players can perform at the top level without any fatigue.
The manager should come with a ‘Plan B’ and ‘Plan C’ if the ‘Plan A’ fails. There have been some close escapes, and they must now ensure, by any means possible, that it doesn’t become a regular feature in the next ISL season. It’s been four seasons now and the fans are getting impatient and they expect nothing less than the title next season.
It should be noted that FC Goa never started as one of the favourites for ISL 4 because most of the players and the coach their kind of unheard of. But then as the matches went by the style of play, intensity and the attacking intent impressed everyone and soon we were the team to beat. We had an impressive first half of the Indian Super League and although the ship did slow down in the second half we never left that attacking intent which was appreciated by all the fans.
Sadly both the semifinals way one of worst performances but it never took the joy away from the wonderful season we had and again I would like to reiterate the attacking intent and no fear in going forward which has kind of become a philosophy now.
We were also going great guns in the Super Cup and if not for the All India Football Federation’s silly decision, we would have won the Super Cup easily. Going forward next season, I think we have been able to retain the core of the midfield and the attack. Only thing is that we have to strengthen is our defence which was the weak link in our squad this season. If the core of the team stays together and we get some good reinforcement at the back we will definitely start as the favourites next season.