A few days ago, FC Goa thumped Chennaiyin FC in a one-sided Hero Indian Super League (ISL) fixture. The game, which saw the Gaurs make the net bulge five times, was a refreshing change from them huffing and puffing to score.

More importantly, though, that match also saw FC Goa keeping a clean sheet. While Chennaiyin FC didn’t create many opportunities (they didn’t have a shot on target either), it was still a performance that doubled FC Goa’s clean sheet tally for the season.

Thus, before the encounter against ATK Mohun Bagan, there was palpable optimism. Not just because their victory against the Marina Machans was as resounding as any they have registered this campaign, but also because it was an opportunity to show the rest of the league that they could outwit a genuine title contender.

Unfortunately for FC Goa, nothing of the sort transpired. They conceded early, spurned whatever chances they created and then left the back door open for the Mariners to barge through. In a nutshell, this was the sort of display that the Gaurs have been wanting to run away from but the kind of outing that has become the dominant theme this season.

Match Report: Manvir Singh nets brace as ATK Mohun Bagan go joint top with win over FC Goa

A key aspect in the Gaurs’ indifferent season is their tendency to concede first – something that has, rather alarmingly, happened 11 times already this campaign. That, by the way, is greater than any corresponding tally any Hero ISL outfit has conjured, indicating how far FC Goa have fallen this season.

Throughout the term, there has been an emphasis on the goals (or lack thereof) that FC Goa have scored. At times, they have looked as free-flowing as any team in the Hero ISL and have stitched together neat patterns. On most occasions, however, that has not materialised into goals, meaning that when they have conceded first, the outcome has become a foregone conclusion.

Of the 17 matches they have played so far, they’ve only surged into the lead on six instances. Unsurprisingly, they’ve not tasted defeat in any of them. The manic 4-3 game against SC East Bengal was set up after Alberto Noguera opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Similarly, Makhan Chote’s strike set them on their way to a 5-0 demolition of Chennaiyin FC.

So, a case could be made that FC Goa are one of the best frontrunners in the Hero ISL. If one were to stretch it further, their record this season suggests that they are unbeatable when they land the first blow. The problem, however, is that that hasn’t happened often enough in 2021-22.

Against ATK Mohun Bagan, FC Goa began the game brightly. A lapse in concentration from a set-piece, though, allowed Manvir Singh to nod the ball into the back of the net.

After that goal, FC Goa tried their best to restore parity. As always, Noguera orchestrated their attacking play. But whenever they got themselves into promising situations, they withered away the opening – often due to a combination of tentativeness or over-eagerness.

There have been occasions where they have tried to pass the ball into the net, and there have also been times where they have snatched at chances. In isolation, it could be put down to their attacking guns misfiring. However, when it happens throughout a season, it shows that they, quite naturally, start feeling the pinch as soon as they go behind.

The other knock-on effect is that they then go searching for openings. They commit too many men forward and regularly get caught out on the counter-attack. The propensity to look for the perfect pass, even when pinned in their own half, has its shortcomings too – something Joni Kauko and Manvir exploited in the 46th minute.

Thus, the problem for FC Goa, as opposed to what has been doing the rounds lately, is two-fold. Goal-scoring is an issue, make no mistake about it. But the Gaurs haven’t helped themselves by always chasing the game.

Had they not been conceding as many goals, while still scoring the same amount, they would have been placed higher up the table because they would not have lost as many games.

Remember, FC Goa have failed to score in only three games (out of 17) this season (against ATK Mohun Bagan, Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City FC).

Yet, they find themselves out of contention for the semi-finals and contemplating how their next goal is going to come about. Making the net bulge is a quandary they need to solve, and it is something that FC Goa will admit too.

But scoring goals will never work as long as they keep shipping them at the other end. Unwittingly for the Gaurs, they have found that out the hard way throughout a grueling season.