FC Goa wrap up maiden AFC Champions League campaign with loss against Al Wahda
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) outfit FC Goa finished their maiden AFC Champions League campaign with a 2-0 loss against UAE’s Al Wahda at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Thursday night. After a resilient defensive display by the Gaurs for over an hour, second-half goals from Omar Khribin and Mohammed Al Menhali helped Al Wahda secure their fourth straight win of the group stage and qualify for the Round of 16 as they secured one of three best group runner-up slots in the West Region.
- More heroics from Dheeraj Singh ensured that the Gaurs stayed in contention for a win for almost an hour.
- Omar Khribin drew first blood for Al Wahda in the 61st minute.
- Skipper Mohammed Al Menhali doubled their lead in the final minute of regulation time.
Tim Matavz forced FC Goa custodian Dheeraj Singh into the first save of the match in the 18th minute after the Al Wahda forward latched onto Khribin’s pass and attempted a shot on target from a tight angle.
In the 29th minute, Dheeraj was tested again, this time by Khribin. The Syrian midfielder headed the ball towards goal after Khalil Ibrahim delivered a cross from the right but the young goalkeeper did well to deny Khribin.
FC Goa were unable to create too many chances in their attacking third. The 38th minute saw their first clear opportunity on goal after the Al Wahda goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi could not hold onto Brandon Fernandes’ freekick. However, the shot-stopper made up for his error by blocking Glan Martins’ shot during the same attacking move.
The Gaurs continued to frustrate their opponents with some valiant defending and prevented them from scoring as the two teams went into the halftime break goalless. The pattern remained the same at the beginning of the second half, with Ibrahim forcing Dheeraj into a save in the 49th minute.
Dheeraj made another fantastic save to deny Khribin three minutes later. The midfielder was the end of skipper Al Menhali’s defence-splitting pass and tried to chip the Gaurs custodian, who managed to get a hand on the effort and keep it out of the net.
Al Wahda finally broke the deadlock in the 61st minute after Matavz laid the ball on a plate for Khribin, who slotted it into the bottom right corner to give his side the lead. Abdullah Hamad then forced substitute goalkeeper Naveen Kumar – after Dheeraj injured himself -- into a save in the 72nd minute. The 32-year-old shot-stopper did well to block Lee Myung-Joo’s cross to Khribin before getting a hand on Hamad’s follow-up effort on goal.
In the 90th minute, FC Goa were unable to clear their lines and Al Wahda pounced on the opportunity. Al Menhali’s shot on goal took a deflection off Adil Khan and found the back of the net as the Emirati club eventually won 2-0 and finished the group stage on 13 points, two behind leaders Persepolis FC, who beat Al Rayyan SC 4-2 earlier in the day. FC Goa, meanwhile, finished third in Group E ahead of Al Rayyan SC on three points with three draws and three defeats.