Down and out but not without a solid display of football. Jorge Costa and his boys registered their first victory this season against FC Goa with a 1-0 win away from home thanks to a 6th minute strike from Rafael Bastos. It was a much improved performance from the Islanders but just not enough over the two-legged semi-final against the Gaurs.
The Boss had promised that the Islanders will give their all and not give up despite a mountain to be climbed. The boys got off to an impressive start with Rafael Bastos finding the back of the net for a second time in two successive games. The move was all about Arnold Issoko’s interception followed by his strength to get away from a couple of defenders and playing Bastos through who calmly slotted the ball past Naveen Kumar. 1-0 after just six minutes and was just the start the Islanders needed to pass an insurmountable four-goal deficit.
Five minutes later, the away side had half a chance to double the lead. Paulo Machado’s corner was met by Modou Sougou’s head but the forward couldn’t keep his effort on target. It was a positive start from the Islanders in what was termed ‘Mission Impossible’. With the attack putting pressure, the defence were equally strong at the back with Lucian Goian marshalling the troops pretty well.
The club’s record goal scorer had a glorious chance to put the pressure on FC Goa after he was played through on goal by Bastos. He took a touch and was one-on-one with Naveen before going for goal but the Goa custodian made a good save to keep the scoreline at 1-0. Despite missing the chances, the Islanders looked confident of scoring on the night once again. Ahmed Jahouh lost the ball possession to Sougou and tugged him back to become the first player to be booked in the contest.
At the stroke of half-time, Bastos went on a brilliant solo run with a few Goa defenders up against him. He managed to get his shot away but it was well blocked by the home side’s defence. That was the last talking point of the half and the Islanders went into the break with a one-goal lead to show for their dominance.
A massive second half was underway with the away side hoping to turn the overall tie in their favour. Ferran Corominas who was pretty quiet in the first half had the first chance in the second half. He went for goal from the edge of the box but his effort lacked any real power and Amrinder made an easy save to his right. The game started to heat up with both set of players throwing in tackles and giving their everything.
The next FC Goa attack nearly got them the equaliser. Jackichand Singh put in a cross from the right side in the box, Amrinder managed to get a hand to change the direction of the ball but it fell to Coro. The Spanish forward failed to convert and hit the crossbar from point blank range - a huge let-off for the Islanders.
With time running out, the boys were pushing ahead in numbers and caught FC Goa off-guard with yet another counter-attack. Bastos got face-to-face with his marker down the left and dummied to get past him but saw his effort blocked. There were less than 25 minutes of normal time and the scoreline yet read 1-0. Arnold had the next go at goal with a shot from 25 yards out but it was straight at Naveen in goal.
Jorge Costa made his first change by bringing Mohammed Rafique on for Raynier Fernandes in the 69th minute. Just a couple of minutes later, there was another chance for the Islanders to double their lead. Machado’s through ball got Bastos behind the Goa defence but he failed to convert the half-chance with Naveen off his line to put him under pressure. There was another change from the away side, Matias Mirabaje came on to replace the goal scorer Rafael Bastos in the 76th minute.
A double booking was issued by the referee R Venkatesh to Lucian Goian and Hugo Boumous after they were involved in a tussle. In the 83rd minute, substitute Rafique produced a brilliant run and a through ball to Sougou who took his shot first time but it crept agonizingly wide off the far post. The Islanders were creating chances but had no luck on their side.
Three minutes later, Mirabaje came close after his free-kick was saved by Naveen and the ball hitting the bottom of the post as well. In the second minute of the allocated five additional minutes, Rafique tested Naveen with a long range effort but the goalkeeper made yet another good save. Over the two legs, Goa would definitely be thankful to their custodian for making some impressive and crucial saves.
The match ended in a hard-fought 1-0 win but an overall 5-2 aggregate defeat for Jorge Costa and his boys. It was a tie that got decided by the first leg result of 5-1 on March 9. The Islanders did give their all but the scoreline wasn’t enough on the night.
A magnificent 2018-19 Hero ISL campaign came to an end for the boys in blue. Up next is the Hero Super Cup where the Islanders play their first game on March 29 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar against either Chennaiyin FC or Aizawl FC.