FC Goa look to avenge defeat in reverse fixture against Persepolis FC
FC Goa will be looking for revenge when they take on Iran’s Persepolis FC in their Group E (West Region) clash of the AFC Champions League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Friday. The Gaurs succumbed to a narrow 2-1 loss against the same opponents on Tuesday and it ended their run of consecutive 0-0 draws against Qatar’s Al Rayyan SC and UAE’s Al Wahda in their first two matches of the continental competition.
The six-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) semi-finalists gave a good account of themselves in their previous game, particularly in attack, and even took the lead against the two-time AFC Champions League finalists. Skipper Edu Bedia scored the momentous goal for the Gaurs through a header, capitalising on Brandon Fernandes’ pinpoint ball into the box in the 13th minute of the game. Brandon shortly after almost doubled the lead if not for Hamed Lak’s heroics in goal for the Iranians.
However, it was the Gaurs’ defensive display in the second half that was most commendable. After the Red Army scored twice in six minutes in the first half to take a slender lead, James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez made up for giving away penalties with some valiant defending in the second. They stopped their opponents from creating too many chances in their defensive third. Young goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who saved the second penalty conceded by Gonzalez in the 42nd minute, was another Gaurs player to stand out in the second half.
Having proved themselves against a club as big as Persepolis FC, the next step for Juan Ferrando’s men will be to secure a much-needed win and keep their hopes of qualifying for the next round intact. The absence of Bedia due to suspension will be a blow for the side but this also gives the Gaurs a chance to experiment in regard to the rest of the resources.
Alexander Jesuraj will be available for selection again after missing out on the last game due to suspension. Friday’s tie will be FC Goa’s fourth match in less than 10 days, and Ferrando had admitted after Tuesday’s defeat that some shake-up in the line-up was on the cards ahead of the reverse fixture.
Meanwhile, Persepolis FC are flying high in Group E. The Red Army are the only side in the West Region with a perfect record after claiming three wins from as many matches. They have scored six goals so far but have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last two matches. Forwards Issa Alekasir and Shahriyar Moghanlou have a formidable partnership up front. The latter scored a brace against Al Rayyan SC. Alekasir, on the other hand, won the penalty from which Mehdi Torabi levelled for his side against FC Goa before assisting Jalal Hosseini’s ultimate winner. These are some of the names that the Gaurs need to be particularly wary of.
A cause for concern for Yahya Golmohammadi’s men will be their poor start in their last two matches. They conceded first against both Al Rayyan SC and FC Goa before staging the comebacks, a fact which screams that the Red Army players will need to keep complacency at bay. They will do well to remember that every day is not Sunday.
FC Goa squad:
Goalkeepers: Mohammad Nawaz, Naveen Kumar, Shubham Dhas, Dheeraj Singh
Defenders: Sanson Pereira, Seriton Fernandes, Leander D’Cunha, Iván González (Spain), Mohamed Ali, James Donachie (Australia), Aibanbha Dohling, Saviour Gama, Adil Khan
Midfielders: Edu Bedia (Spain), Glan Martins, Princeton Rebello, Brandon Fernandes, Phrangki Buam, Redeem Tlang, Makan Chothe, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Romeo Fernandes
Forwards: Jorge Ortiz (Spain), Devendra Murgaokar, Ishan Pandita
Match starts: 10:30 PM IST
Live telecast: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV