FC Goa look to sign off maiden AFC Champions League campaign with a win over Al Wahda
Six-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) semi-finalists FC Goa will take on UAE’s Al Wahda in their final Group E (West Region) encounter of the AFC Champions League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Thursday night. The Gaurs came very close to securing their first win in the continental club competition in their last match against Al Rayyan SC from Qatar but conceded a late goal to the great disappointment of fans.
It was FC Goa’s attacking forays that won them plaudits in the fifth match of their AFC Champions League campaign against the Qatari side on Monday night. Pouncing on Brandon Fernandes’ brilliant ball, Jorge Ortiz scored for the Gaurs just three minutes into the game. Buoyed, Juan Ferrando’s men went on to create quite a few chances thereafter, and on another day could have easily added to Ortiz’s goal. Dheeraj Singh’s return between the sticks paid dividends, with the young shot-stopper making many important saves. However, he had one bad moment in the 89th minute of the match and that well and truly allowed the Qatari club to score the equaliser.
In a big blow to the Indian club, star defender Ivan Gonzalez will miss the game on Thursday on account of receiving his second yellow card of the group stage against Laurent Blanc’s men on Monday night. Adil Khan, Mohamed Ali and Aiban Dohling are the options that Juan Ferrando could use in the absence of Gonzalez.
FC Goa’s opponents, on the other hand, are in strong form with three wins in their last three matches in the AFC Champions League. Since their goalless draw against the Gaurs on April 17, Henk ten Cate’s men have gone on to do the double over Al Rayyan SC before beating group leaders Persepolis FC 1-0 in their last outing.
Presently second-placed on 10 points -- two behind Persepolis FC -- Al Wahda would want to finish the group stage as leaders, so there won’t be any dearth of motivation for them going into the game against FC Goa. A win or them and a loss for Persepolis FC against Al Rayyan SC will seal a place for the Emirati club in the next round. It may be noted that Al Wahda can qualify for the Round of 16 even as a second-placed team in the group as according to the rules three best runners-up from the West Region will also advance to the next round.
Despite being out of the reckoning, the Gaurs won’t be short of motivation either. This was the first AFC Champions League group stage appearance for an Indian club and in view of their inexperience, they have done well against some of the seasoned teams in the region. With three draws and two defeats, a victory is all Ferrando’s men crave before signing off, and with no pressure on them, fans can expect them to play their renowned free-flowing football and upset the Emirati club on their way to making history.
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), Aiban 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
Kick-off time: 10.30 PM (IST)
Live telecast: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV
(Readers please note this article was written on April 28. However on April 29, FC Goa confirmed their foreign contingent, including the head coach, have been asked to fly back home immediately in view of recent policies being taken by European and other countries in regard to travellers from India as the nation battles the second wave of Covid-19.)