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Thursday, November 30, 2017

FC Goa Wins!!!

FC Goa did us proud! Go Gaurs!! Very few expected the Goans to win against in-form Bengaluru FC. For one thing, they have been playing together for much longer than the other teams in the ISL. For another, they have some of the stars of Indian football in their line-up — including, but not restricted to the current Indian football team captain Sunil Chetri, and the Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. (On a side note, apparently Fatorda isn’t good for Chetri. Ah well… ) For a third, the Gaurs, playing with a larger contingent of Goan players than ever before, have been at the receiving end recently, with Captain Kattimani coming in for a lot of flak for letting goals through ‘right between his legs’ as woeful fans complain. Safe to say that the mood before the game was a mix of defiant “Goa will win!” from young optimists (some literally young and some young-at-heart) to a more pragmatic “B’lore is the far better team” from more experienced and jaded supporters. But defiant or pragmatic, what counted was that the fans came — from all over Goa and even abroad. Several Goan-origin Canadians, down in Goa for vacations, made their way to Fatorda to cheer.

The game started with the Bangalore team bowling the Goan players over here, there and everywhere. The crowd booed and roared and then the Gaurs hit their stride with the Goan supporters finding a new love. While Mandar and Bruno Pinheiro seemed to get the loudest cheers at the start, by the end of the game there was just one name on everyone’s lips — Coro. Ferran Corominas, “Coro”, has gone in the record books as the first scorer of a hat-trick in the ISL 4. And he did it in style. His first goal was a beaut. He elegantly dodged his marker, Rahul Bheke, displaying beautiful control and making it look effortless, as he found the net leaving the much vaunted BFC keeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu looking lost. The crowd went crazy with delight, but didn’t have long to celebrate as less than five minutes later Miku scored for Bangalore — right between Kattimani’s legs. The contrast of the moment couldn’t have been more as silence greeted the equaliser, with only the Bengaluru team celebrating. And then 13 minutes later Coro did it again. A beautiful, long free-kick from Manuel Lanzarote Bruno, “Lanza”, found Bruno Pinheiro, who headed the ball to Coro, well placed in front of the goal, making no mistakes in scoring his second. At that point everyone watching the game knew they were in for a brilliant night of football.

The second goal seemed to spur Lanza on even more, impressive considering he’d been a live wire right from the start. His swarm around the Bengaluru keeper resulted in Gurpreet losing his cool and shoving him. For which Gurpreet was promptly red-carded — much to the excitement of the home crowd. Lanza himself took the penalty, successfully sending the BFC reserve keeper the wrong way, to send the Gaurs 3-1 up — much to the delight of the crowd. “Now we’re home safe” crowed some of the young guns. But the more experienced heads shook warningly, “Bangalore can score even with a 10-man team. We need to be careful!” The buzz turned to discussing how Gurpreet, believed to the most expensive Indian player in the ISL, needed to show more restraint, with many excusing his aggression because of his youth. Not surprisingly, Bangalore seemed defensive in the final 10 minutes of the first half, leaving the young guns smug.

The second half started with a resurgent BFC. It was time for the experienced watchers to sorrowfully nod “I told you so” as 10-man BFC equalised within a space of five minutes.

Kattimani impressed me twice in the match… once at the start, about 12 minutes into the game. His second moment of grace came 11 minutes into the second half when he leaped to send a fine strike by BFC’s Miku over the net. I had hardly finished cheering and clapping for him when BFC scored from the ensuing corner, leaving Kattimani looking like an amateur. Five minutes later all the Goan fans were distraught when BFC cut right through the Goan defence as if it were asleep, with Miku once again coming through, catching an onrushing Kattimani high and dry.

Just when it looked like FC Goa had managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory, Coro came through again, saving the Gaurs from what would have been a very embarrassing outcome on it’s home ground to a 10-man visiting team. What a night it was — as the players walked of the field, Goan fans could slow their thumping hearts and make plans for December 9, when FC Goa take on Kerala Blasters FC in the second of nine games that will be played at home.

FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera stayed with the “we are a team” mantra when asked questions about concerns about Kattimani, and Coro’s brilliant streak, refusing to single out individuals, either for praise or blame. However, he did say, “We need to improve a lot with what we're doing, particularly because we allowed a team with 10 men to come back from a two-goal deficit,” showing that he is very well aware of gaping defence issues his team faces.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hello world...

Turned 36 a couple of days back and realised I'm finally at a place where I'm working on being authentic all the time. Which means no hiding behind anonymity. So I can let real me and blog me merge...

Not that I'm going to go crazy and give everyone my blog url right away... Lol. But slowly...