Two first-half strikes from Sunil Chhetri and N. Sivasakthi may have made fans believe that Bengaluru FC would coast to an easy win, but the young FC Goa side led by captain Lesly Rebello was a bolt from the blue. Rebello’s strike, along with that of Phrangki Buam in the second half helped them script a memorable day for Deggie Cardozo’s boys as they held the southerners to a 2-2 draw in their final Durand Cup group stage clash on Tuesday.
Cardozo made three alterations to the starting lineup that played against Jamshedpur FC last week, as Shanon Viegas, Ayush Chhetri and Muhammed Nemil made way for Rayan Roger Menezes, Rayan Menezes and Mevan Dias. Their formation also underwent a change, as the Gaurs lined up in a 3-4-3 setup as opposed to the usual 4-2-3-1.
Despite facing a strong opposition in Bengaluru FC, the young FC Goa side kept their composure to close down a number of their attacking runs in the first half. This impressive phase could have lasted longer, had Chhetri not found the back of the net for Bengaluru FC in the 23rd minute when the India skipper fired home with a direct free-kick from just outside the box.
Three minutes later, Simon Grayson’s men doubled their advantage through N. Sivasakthi, with Udanta Singh credited with the assist. Television replays showed that Singh had moved into an off-side position before receiving the ball, but the goal was allowed to stand in a questionable refereeing decision.
A two-goal deficit usually means additional pressure for any side, but the Boys in Orange went on to prove that they are built differently. Returning from the half-time break, Deggie Cardozo’s boys doubled their pressure on the ball.
It was only a matter of time before they reaped the reward for it as Phrangki Buam scored Goa’s first goal of the match in the 54th minute. In a beautiful move, he latched on to a loose ball just outside the Bengaluru box before sidestepping the goalkeeper and slotting the ball into an empty net.
Ten minutes later, the scoresheet was back on level terms, much to the ecstasy of the Gaurs. A lovely lay-off by substitute Vasim Inamdar found skipper Lesly Rebello in an unusual forward position. The skipper, though, kept a cool head and fired home with precision.
The thirty-odd minutes that followed, although goalless, was a lesson in resilience for all as FC Goa refused to give up despite Bengaluru FC switching to a more physical style of play.
In spite of this, the Gaurs continued to cross the t’s and dot the i’s with such meticulousness that the experience of Grayson’s men did not matter much. Ultimately, they had to settle for a draw.
FC Goa have hence wrapped up their Durand Cup 2022 campaign with four points from four matches. Previously, they had beaten the Indian Air Force football team 1-0, in the only victory of their campaign.
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