Dheeraj proves impregnable in goal as FC Goa earn memorable draw on AFC Champions League debut
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side FC Goa produced a memorable performance on their AFC Champions League debut to earn a well-deserved point from their opening Group E (West Region) clash after a 0-0 draw against Al Rayyan SC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Wednesday. The Gaurs went toe-to-toe against the Qatari outfit in the first half and defended valiantly in the second.
- Neither team managed to find the back of the net in the first half.
- FC Goa’s defended resolutely in the second half to frustrate and deny Al Rayyan SC a goal.
FC Goa began positively and enjoyed a lot of the ball in the opening stages. Al Rayyan SC though gradually grew into the contest and began to look more threatening as their attacking talents registered three shots at goal inside the opening 10 minutes.
The first chance went to Yacine Brahimi after FC Goa lost possession near their own box and allowed the Algerian to have an attempt on goal from range that went wide of the target. Brahimi was in the thick of the action again soon after when he put a teammate through in a one-on-one situation with just the goalkeeper to beat only for Dheeraj Singh to quickly come off his line and thwart the danger for FC Goa.
Yohan Boli then looked to capitalise on a poor clearance that was blocked by the opposition by driving into the box with the ball and getting a shot away, which found the side-netting. The Gaurs also had a shot at goal themselves in the 40th minute when an Alexander Jesuraj shot from distance forced the goalkeeper into conceding a corner. Al Rayyan SC would go on to have two more shots from range before halftime but neither troubled Dheeraj as it remained goalless at the break.
Al Rayyan SC enjoyed more possession after the restart, while FC Goa dropped deeper into their own half as the second period wore on. The Gaurs struggled to keep hold of the ball going forward and couldn’t string together passes for a sustained period of time.
That said, FC Goa were standing firm in defence and frustrated Al Rayyan SC’s forwards as they toiled in their attempts the breach the Gaurs’ backline. Boli almost managed to evade FC Goa’s defence and apply the finishing touch on a few threatening balls but the combination of James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez ensured that the Qatari outfit’s attackers were denied space and time with the ball.
The closing stages of the game saw FC Goa grow in confidence and put a few dangerous balls into the box. One such cross even struck the hand of an Al Rayyan SC defender in the box, but the referee didn’t deem it to be a penalty.
The final five minutes of normal time saw Al Rayyan SC up the ante in search of a late winner as it was all-hands-on-deck for FC Goa. A cross from the right in the 86th minute was headed on target by Boli and needed Dheeraj’s intervention to keep it goalless. Shoja' Khalilzadeh also headed a cross from the right into the side-netting late on but in the end, FC Goa did enough hold on for a draw and earn a hard-fought point on their AFC Champions League debut.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Persepolis FC beat Al Wahda 1-0 in the first match of the group.