FC Goa had to settle for a draw against ATK Mohun Bagan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao despite bossing the majority of the game. The Gaurs ended the game with the lions’ share of the possession with 21 efforts on goal with 8 being on target.
It was the Mariners who drew first blood in the top-of-the-table clash. However, true to the Gaurs’ nature this season, the home side hit back courtesy of Ishan Pandita’s second of the season – yet again coming off the bench.
For the first time this season, Juan Ferrando went for a completely unchanged lineup, keeping faith with the eleven that got the best of Jamshedpur FC on Thursday.
The game got off to a brisk start characterised by a certain directness from both sides. Whilst the Gaurs were able to test the keeper first, the Mariners had the first real clear opportunity.
The 26th minute of the game saw Subhashish Bose rise highest from a corner. The defender’s header down on to the turf though bounced off the pitch and hit the crossbar before being claimed by Naveen Kumar in the FC Goa goal.
The Gaurs hit the bar as well five minutes later on at the other end. Some delightful interplay on the right saw Alberto Noguera play in Seriton Fernandes beyond the Mariners’ backline. His deflected cross caught out Arindam Bhattacharya in the ATK Mohun Bagan goal. Fortunately for him, the ball glanced off the crossbar and to safety.
The tempo of the game remained the same for the rest of the half with Goa getting the only other shot on target in the remaining minutes – albeit a tame one from Romario Jesuraj.
And thus, the teams strode down into their respective dressing rooms with the game still goalless at half-time.
The Gaurs started off the brighter of the two sides following the break, creating two great opportunities within the first five minutes.
First, it was Noguera and Ortiz combining brilliantly to have a real run at the ATK Mohun Bagan backline. Noguera calmly placed the ball into the centre for his onrushing Spanish compatriot. His attempt, though, was thwarted by a last-ditch tackle.
A couple of minutes later, Seriton burst forward on the left with Ortiz in the middle. The right-back’s ball into the middle turned out to be an innocuous one for Arindam as the ball crashed off the post to the relief of the away side.
The Gaurs remained in the ascendancy, threatening time and again to open up the Mariners’ defence. However, against the run of play, it was the Mariners who went ahead in the 75th minute, from a direct free kick. Edu Garcia thrashed home after James Donachie was deemed to have brought down Roy Krishna right at the edge of the penalty box.
FC Goa came roaring back and equalised in the 85th minute of the game. A powerful header from Donachie from a corner kick was cleared off the line by Pritam Kotal. The ball, however, fell to Ishan Pandita, who made no mistake in slotting the ball into the back of the net.
The frame of the goal was clipped for the 4th time in the 89th minute this time by former Gaur Manvir Singh, whose glancing header from a free-kick kissed the top of the crossbar. On the other end, the Gaurs kept on the doors of the ATK Mohun Bagan goal with Jorge Ortiz, Devendra Murgaokar and Saviour Gama coming close to a winner.
With the extension of FC Goa’s unbeaten run to five games, the Gaurs further consolidate their place in the top four of the table. Juan Ferrando’s men currently are on 19 points from 12 games, four points clear off other teams vying for a playoff spot.
The Gaurs will next be in action on Saturday, January 23 when they will look to do the double over the Kerala Blasters.