After a slow and torrid start to their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, Zico’s FC Goa have finally ignited their season with a five-game unbeaten streak, and start favourites against a high-flying NorthEast United FC in the electrifying atmosphere of the Fatorda Stadium on Monday.
Bagging a coveted semi-final spot does not look improbable for Goa unlike earlier. Garnering just four points in their first six encounters, Goa often reeled at the bottom of the table with their passable and rusty performances. The side seemed to lack in consistency and ideas at some point, so much so that their leading goal-scorers were two central defenders, Gregory Arnolin and Youness Bengelloun.
Even the legendary Zico failed to identify his best XI as he constantly rotated the three strikers – Tolgay Ozbey, Ranti Martins and Miroslav Slepicka – to find regular goals for his side. Although the Goans dominatedproceedings and patrolled the opponent’s 18-yard box, they seldom threatened the opposing goalkeeper and lacked penetration and clinical finishing.The legendary Brazilian coach openly expressed anguish after games where Goa were the better side, yet failed to bag full points.
After sticking with his coaching techniques and basic formation, Zico’s tactical implementation finally seems to have come alive ever since his side held Mumbai to a goalless draw at home.An unbeaten streak of five games that includes three wins against Delhi Dynamos FC, FC Pune City and Kerala Blasters FC has lifted Goa to the top-4 with 15 points from 11 games.
Known for its attacking intent, FC Goa now face NorthEast United in a clash between two highly attacking and dominant sides. Even though the Goans start favourites, the Highlanderswill be a stern test for the home side. And given that Ricki Herbert’s contingent face a must-win scenario, an absorbing contest is sure to light up Monday.