As the saying goes ‘goals wins games’ especially when you have a suspect defence it takes more prominence. Up against one of the best defences which had conceded only 1 prior goal, FC Goa’s 5-2 thumping win heralded its attacking prowess showcasing the best front 3 line in ISL 4. Lobera’s BCL i.e. Brandon, Coro and Lanza in full flow is breathtaking and a fantastic advert for the League. As one of footballing greats Kevin Keegan once said “Football is much easier when you got the ball”, FC Goa’s brand of bold and attacking football finally prevailed after being precariously placed at Half Time. Going in to the game, I personally had FC Goa up to the races early with scoring at least a couple of goals before even conceding anything given Kerala was missing Vineeth, their attacking mainstay.
The early injury to Berbatov in my humble opinion was a blessing in disguise for them as they were able to inject more pace and get Jackichand on the ball much earlier which yielded early dividends with him being able to get on the right wing and whip in a precise cross over 3 defenders for Sifenos, who did a great job at bringing the ball down on the run and slotting pass Kattimani. Katti in textbook error somehow let the ball slip underneath him despite being allowed the time to block it with both hands. At the risk of sounding like a broken record a weak spot reared its ugly self when the defense on the left hand side was exposed on that goal. If I am the defensive coach I should be asking where was Narayan’s positioning that left Edu isolated against Jackichand who was always going to get away with his pace advantage, could Ali have done more better by closing on Jackichand? Probably the answer in some part to my query was answered when Edu with a lovely through pass found the overlapping Narayan on this occasion putting in fantastic cross to Lanzarote who nailed it on goal with a pin point first time volley. Two quality crosses and finishes from both sides in the opening 10 minutes, the game was set up nicely. At this stage, Kerala Coach Meulensteen’s tactics were a little baffling to me.
To initiate a passing game from the back when you are up against a side that has 3 players ready at the press, you are always going to be held accountable for any errors. While upfront when you have an old fashioned number 9 in Sifenos, it would have been ideal to go long and have him link up with Jackichand on the right who was already giving the FC Goa backline a few headaches. The first bad pass from the back nearly cost FC Kerala when Lanzarote intercepted a Kerala move from the back but they were lucky to get away but the adjustment wasn’t made and against a highly talented attacking opposition more often than not mistakes get punished. Coro with a lovely interception on a careless pass from the Kerala GK laid the ball into Lanza’s path who added another goal to his highlight reel with an fantastic fake and dummy on 2 defenders that left India’s best defender Jhingan on his backside to calmly put Goa back in to the lead. Witnessing that goal was worth all the trouble finding parking outside the stadium. It wouldn’t be true to character if there wasn’t one more mention of the left side of the defense. On this occasion, Ali playing a bad pass straight to Jackichand who set off in a quick one-two with Milan to skip past FC Goa’s defense to score Kerala’s equaliser. This was like watching the replay on Miku’s equalizer from the previous Bengaluru game. Ali again in question whether he couldn’t have atoned for his error by reacting quickly to close the gap between him and Edu to block or divert the entry pass to Jacki. Lobera at this stage was livid, urging Narayan and Ali to be closer and stay in line with each other.
The situation got a little tense and mood leading to HT was pretty much similar to the Bengaluru game at 3-3. It could have gone either way or spoils shared. But as it happened in the previous game, Coro decided to take matters in his own hands and go full throttle. Just when the Kerala defense switched off, Coro went to work making a crucial run off Pesic’s shoulder, credit to Jahouh making an exquisite through an eye of the needle pass to Coro between Jhingan and Pesic to score his first. Hardly the euphoria of Goa’s third goal had died down, Brandon in his best of ‘’if you can do it, I can do it better’’ impression, played in the exact through pass between Pesic and Jhingan to Coro to score the team’s fourth and his 2nd. Coro on this occasion with a cool and sublime dink over the rushing GK was pure stardust. With Kerala chasing the game, a lot of gaps eventually opened up and Jahouh again with a fantastic volley cross field pass found Lanza who selfishlessly instead of cutting in and taking a shot on his favourite left foot dropped his shoulder to lay it on a plate for Coro to complete his hattrick the fastest in the League.
This game was ideal for young fans watching for its pure attacking fervour and high quality of finishing. The runs and finishing by both Coro and Lanza were top class while Brandon put in a good performance. His pass and movements in to spaces effecting the opposition defending patterns again crucial to the way Goa plays. I am amazed at his game IQ and maturity. Credit goes to Lobera for moulding and integrating Brandon in the frontline. Less said the better of the defending by both sides. With 13 Goals in 4 games, the FC Goa attack offense in full flow is a treat to watch. I am still very much intrigued to see how they adjust if and when Rival coaches set their midfield and defenses more narrow and compact which would force them more out more wider, challenging them in the process to use the flanks like how Mumbai Coach Guimaraes did in Goa’s only loss. A special mention for Jackichand, who ran tirelessly at Goa’s defense all game. Kerala will be best served to get him on the ball as much as they can. It was unfortunate, his defenders let him down. It works for Lobera that he has at its disposal some of the best attacking talent the league has witnessed but again he will admit he was feeling a little pressure at the half stage. The defending is yet to convince. Maybe the next game being an away tie might just help Kattimani. But I feel he’s someone who has an error in him which will eventually cost the team down the line. The let up on the first goal begs the question as to whether he is technically sound when having to move his feet laterally. It’s something the coaching team will need to work on otherwise they will have to take him off the firing line for his own good. The left side can still be tightened. I can understand that in the commitment to play attacking football, your left back Narayan will venture up leaving the space behind him but then Ali as the de facto LB has to be more switched on in those situations. I still feel Lobera could be well served if tried his options there when he has the luxury to do so.