Murgaokar relishing AFC Champions League opportunities

Six-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) semi-finalists FC Goa face off against Iran’s Persepolis FC in their third match of the AFC Champions League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Tuesday night. In Group E (West Region), the Gaurs have two points so far from as many matches after holding Qatar’s Al Rayyan SC and UAE’s Al Wahda to goalless draws.

Young Gaurs forward Devendra Murgaokar, who came on as a substitute in both the matches and gave a good account of himself, is thrilled to have got these big opportunities with Juan Fernando’s team. “I feel good. It was a good experience playing some real big games. These are the kind of games a footballer looks forward to,” he told Goal ahead of the Persepolis FC tie.

Against all odds, the Hero ISL outfit earned back-to-back draws. In fact, with a little bit of luck they could have beaten the Emirati outfit in their last game where they improved immensely, particularly in attack.

When asked if he was surprised that the Gaurs were able to get a point against two very tough opponents, Murgaokar said: “Yes and no. We had to grow into the situations very quickly. We know that any mistake is going to be punished. So, our focus has really shown. Knowing the importance of playing as a team, every day we are pushing ourselves to be better.

“I think we can do a lot better in the attacking aspect. We haven't scored a goal yet but we are getting closer. I hope that it comes very soon.”

Brandon Fernandes, who almost scored against Al Wahda as one of his efforts hit the post, too is happy with the Gaurs’ showing so far in the prestigious competition. “It's definitely a great feeling. It's a big achievement for us to get these two points. Nobody expected us to give such a tough fight but we kept pushing and working hard and we will continue to push ourselves in the upcoming matches,” he said.

The midfielder also believes head coach Ferrando’s formula and style of play is working for the Gaurs and that they are going to continue sticking to it against the Iranian giants on Tuesday. "This has been the style of FC Goa all along and the priority has been to maintain ball possession. The head coach has been guiding us through various aspects, especially in transitions and controlling the spaces, and the team is following it all very well,” he said.

“Nothing different from the previous matches, we are going to continue fighting and pushing ourselves, making sure that we give them a tough fight. Most important is team work. You have to stick together as one. Yes, the level of competition is high but you can't give away easily. You have to give it your all,” he added.

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