The players had a lot of faith till the last minute: FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena

FC Goa began their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign on a positive note as they claimed a last-gasp 2-1 win over East Bengal FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Wednesday. It was a game of two halves as Brandon Fernandes gave the Gaurs an early lead, but Cleiton Silva restored parity from the spot in the second half as the Red & Golds mounted a great fightback.

FC Goa end six-match drought in Kolkata with late winner against East Bengal

But the hosts had a lapse in concentration right at the end as Edu Bedia found the back of the net from a free-kick to secure all three points for Carlos Pena’s side. Pena was delighted with the performance of his players and the Spaniard lauded the character of his players for fighting right till the end.

Here are the excerpts from his press conference:

FC Goa were aggressive in the first half but lost the momentum in the second half before scoring the winner right at the end. Your thoughts?

I absolutely agree. In the first (half), we started with a great personality, we tried to control the game with the ball, by playing in the opposition half and creating chances. And because of that we didn’t suffer. We didn’t want to concede chances in our own half because we know that East Bengal FC are good in transitions and counter-attacks. And in the first half we controlled these things very well.

In the second half, they put more dynamic players into their team and we suffered a bit. We started losing some balls and (East Bengal FC were) creating lots of problems. But during the latter stages, we started passing forward and were playing in the half of East Bengal FC. Luckily, we could score and get the three points.

Do you think the winning goal was a gift as East Bengal FC lost concentration in the end?

Of course, it’s a gift for the players and they deserve it. They had a lot of faith till the last moment. They tried to attack and create half chances till the last moment. You can see the first five matches of the Hero ISL and there was always something happening at the last minute. I think my team finished very well. The players who came off the bench made a lot of passes and gave us a lot of strength. And we finally got the gift.

Do you think Edu Bedia got lucky with the goal?

No, it was about quality. He (Bedia) is a player who is great at free-kicks. He could have scored before from the corner, believe me. He delivers those corners and free-kicks very well. You all know Edu Bedia with his quality. The free-kick that he took was with intention. It could have been touched by any player or by an opponent, but it went into the net.

In case FC Goa did not score the winner at the end, would you still have been happy with your team’s performance?

Of course, I’m not going to lie, I’m very happy with the three points. We know we have things to improve on despite the win, and with a draw, the analysis would be the same. Now it’s time to analyse what we did well, what we need to improve on, and move on to the next game. 

Edu Bedia came close to scoring from a corner on more than one occasion. Was it a specific tactic by your corner takers to catch the keeper off guard and score directly?

We had many corners, I don’t know how many we delivered today and we had some set-pieces, of course. We knew East Bengal FC were weak in which positions as we had analysed our opponents, and we tried to take advantage of that. Sometimes coaches take the credit for that, but on many occasions, it’s the quality of the players that make the difference. 

What do you have to say about the team’s character to fight till the end?

There are different games. It’s very difficult to control and dominate a game for 90 minutes. Sometimes you have to suffer, sometimes you have to take the initiative. In the second half, we suffered in some minutes but it’s about character also, it’s about defending goals in these minutes and wait for our chance. And it happened in the last minutes. We were better and finally we could claim all three points.

The fans back home have been waiting for the first home game. Any message to them?

Yeah now, there is less time to be again with them (fans) in Fatorda. We know that we start the Hero ISL with three away games and we’re trying to get the most points so that we can arrive for the first Hero ISL game at the Fatorda with the best feelings and the best position in the table. We feel their support when we’re playing in (our home) and away, and this victory, these three points are for them.

What do you think of the new format given that six teams will be fighting for the playoffs? Does it put less pressure on the teams?

In football there is always pressure. We are FC Goa. We have seen Goa (over the seasons) fighting for the semi-finals, and fighting for the trophy, and this is our objective. Of course, it’s only one game. We need to be humble. It’s a good start and we’re going for the next one before we can be closer to our home.

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