FC Goa earn another valuable point after impressive show against Al Wahda

Image credit: Indian Football Team on Facebook

FC Goa remained unbeaten in the AFC Champions League after a 0-0 draw against their Group E (West Region) opponents Al Wahda at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday night. Brandon Fernandes came closest to scoring a goal early in the second half when he struck the post and Dheeraj Singh was in inspired form again in goal for the Gaurs.

  • Neither side managed to break the deadlock in the first half.
  • Brandon Fernandes struck the woodwork in the second period.

Both teams had periods with possession of the ball in the opening 20 minutes but neither side managed to create any clear-cut chances. Al Wahda though did enjoy territorial superiority and were trying to get in behind FC Goa’s backline with intricate play near the edge of the Gaurs box.

A corner in the 23rd minute led to Dheeraj being called into action and the young Indian custodian dealt with Fares Juma’s header quite comfortably, making a regulation save. The Emirati club grew in confidence and dictated the tempo of the contest as the half wore on, while FC Goa looked to keep their shape and frustrate the opposition attackers.

A quickly taken freekick in the 38th minute almost caught out FC Goa’s defence. However, Dheeraj was alert to the danger and came off his line to block Khalil Ibrahim’s shot, which ricocheted to a dangerous area in the box before being cleared by the Gaurs.

Dheeraj, in fact, was in for a busy end to the half and had to get down in time in the 44th minute to save a Tim Matavz shot from the edge of the box. Matavz then had a shot from close range blocked by James Donachie in first half stoppage time as FC Goa held on and went into the break with the game goalless.

Al Wahda looked to up the ante from the start of the second half, but it was FC Goa that came agonisingly close to taking the lead in the 54th minute when a half-cleared ball fell nicely for Brandon, whose first-time shot from just inside the box rattled the frame of the goal.

The UAE outfit then had a big chance to go ahead on the hour mark when Ibrahim’s cross from the right went to Omar Khribin, who was unmarked inside the box but headed the ball straight into Dheeraj’s hands. The Indian custodian’s opposite number Mohamed Al Shamsi made a big save himself 12 minutes later when substitute Devendra Murgaokar directed a Brandon cross from the right on goal.

However, Dheeraj was by far the busier goalkeeper and was in the thick of things again in the 78th minute as he flew through the air to save Ismaeil Matar’s freekick. FC Goa though continued to be threatening on the counter-attack and could have scored a goal on the break had their final balls and decision-making been better. The final few minutes of the contest witnessed Al Wahda gamble and throw more bodies in FC Goa’s box in their bid for a late winner.

Khribin tested Dheeraj with a powerful low effort in the last minute of regulation time and once again the young shot-stopper was equal to the task as Seriton Fernandes cleared the resultant rebound before an opposition attacker could get to the ball. Dheeraj denied Khribin again in the last minute of stoppage time by making himself big and getting in the way of a goal-bound header as Juan Ferrando’s men held on to register a second successive clean sheet following the goalless draw in their opener as well.

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