FC Goa got their Durand Cup 2021 campaign off to a winning start, defeating Army Green 2-0 in their opening Group B game. Goals from Alberto Noguera and Devendra Murgaonkar gave the Gaurs all three points at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Having traveled with a full-strength squad, FC Goa chose to field just one foreigner, the Spaniard Noguera, in their starting XI. But there was enough experience and talent in terms of Indian players to carry them over the line.
Despite dominating possession early on, Goa struggled to get a foothold in the game in the opening 20 minutes. It was Army Green who had the first two chances.
Princeton Rebello, trying to play out from the back, was dispossessed close to the 18-yard-box but Army striker Lallawmkima scuffed his shot. A few minutes later, a free-kick from Vikas Zanje caught FC Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar off guard and slammed the crossbar.
The ISL team registered their first shot on target at the half-hour mark when defender Aiban Dohling’s header looped into goalkpeer Sarath’s arms. But after that moment, they started to find their rhythm.
The breakthrough arrived when Makan Chothe dribbled his way into opposition territory and fed Noguera through. The Spanish midfielder made no mistake as he dinked the ball over the advancing Sarath to make it 1-0 in the 35th minute.
Goa could have made it 2-0 before the break but their counter-attack was thwarted by an on-rushing Sarath who put in an inspired performance.
The second half saw the introduction of more FC Goa first-team regulars in the form of Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes and Alexander Romario Jesuraj. The latter, in particular, had the desired impact off the bench as he fed in Murgaonkar to double the lead.
Army Green, to their credit, did not lose heart and kept trying to find a way back into the game. Within a five-minute spell around the hour mark, they had one shot blocked, one saved and one which went wide.
Their attacking endeavors left space for FC Goa to exploit on the counter-attack. Redeem Tlang had one such chance after being sent through, but Sarath denied him, one on one. Romario was also denied by the busy Sarath, who flew to his right to deny a long-range effort.
There were plenty of positives for FC Goa to take from this performance but coach Juan Ferrando would be happier with better finishing. Playing out from the back has become the Goa way but better teams are likely to punish them if errors are made so close to goal.