FC Goa. Arguably the best side to watch in the ISL last season. It was a case of “we can score more than you” more often than not for Sergio Lobera’s team last season time out as they chucked the defensive aspect of the game out the window and decided to just go for it. As well as being (arguably) the best side to watch last year, they also possessed the most devastating forward partnership. FC Goa ended the season on forty-two goals, seven more than their closest competitors, Bengaluru. Seven might not seem like an awful lot in the grand scheme of things, however, you have to remember that there are only eighteen games over the duration of the normal season.

Reverse Order

Anyhow, we’ll tell this story in reverse order. I’m not so sure if there is so such thing as a phobia of semi-finals, if there is, FC Goa should be diagnosed with it. To the surprise of many, FC Goa were beaten over two legs by eventual ISL champions, Chennaiyin. John Gregory & co played the game perfectly and restricted Goa to only four shots on target in the home leg for Goa. Three shots were blocked by a determined Chennai side. In the return leg, Chennaiyin simply blew FC Goa away. Two goals in the opening half an hour from Jeje and Dhanapal Ganesh meant that Chennaiyin had something to hold on to. They weren’t letting the lead slip. FC Goa had 67% possession in the second-leg but simply couldn’t get on the scoresheet.

Going against my ‘reverse order’ mantra that I touched on literally a paragraph ago, we are now going to talk a little bit about the Indian Super Cup. Or, the infamous Super Cup as it should probably be renamed. In the quarter-final tie with Jamshedpur, SIX players were sent off at half-time which meant the second period was played eight against eight. With FC Goa already one up, they picked Steve Coppell’s side apart, running our eventual 5-1 winners. Hugo Boumous scored two in ten minutes and we will look into him in more detail as he is incredibly talented. He deserves his own article, as do many other members of this FC Goa side.  

The Curse Of The Semi

After that game against Jamshedpur, FC Goa were drawn against I-League side, East Bengal. Despite the suspensions, Lobera’s side should’ve beaten East Bengal. I’m not too sure of the starting XI for FC Goa, but my sources (my memory) indicate that they had a pretty strong team, minus Ahmed Jahouh. To cut a long story short, they lost 1-0 to East Bengal and their season was over with a bit of a shoulder shrug more than anything else. They could’ve won the double, instead, they ended up with trouble. It was most definitely not the ending FC Goa were hoping for, nonetheless, it leaves them with plenty of promise for this upcoming season.

Perhaps their most important piece of business over the summer was retaining Lobera. After all, it was ideology which propelled FC Goa to a third-place finish. When you consider that they finished bottom the season before, it’s all the more remarkable. So, what about his style? FC Goa’s formation switched from 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 dependant on the personnel available. One of the more important players, Manuel Lanzarote has unfortunately left FC Goa for ATK, so Coro will be looking to strike up a new partnership this season.

How Did The Regular Season Play Out?

It ended spectacularly. Their last three ended with an aggregate scoreline of 12-1 which cemented their place in the top four which did look ropey prior to those three emphatic wins. A winless streak of five preceded those epic last three games and maybe ropey was an understatement. Kerala were picking up some form as were Jamshedpur, yet it was Lobera’s FC Goa that had enough to get over the line, purely down to their firepower.

Ironically, the season began with Goa’s ISL semi-final nemesis, Chennaiyin. Three goals over a fourteen minute period in the first-half blew Gregory’s side away and even though they got two back late on, Lobera’s side had done enough. Chennaiyin certainly learnt their lesson, though as they didn’t lose in any of the other three meetings.

That 12-1 aggregate scoreline I was referring to was nothing in comparison to game three, four and five. That ended 14-6 which sort of summed up Goa’s season; phenomenal in attack, bang average at the back. All of their games, whether they won or lost, you were guaranteed two things. Number one, there would be goals. Number two, FC Goa would have a lot of the ball. It’s hard to see Lobera changing his style this season and why should he? It was a breath of fresh air.

One More Thing

If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing FC Goa to finish in the top four again. Not sure if they’ll win it, though. Time will tell.

Until the next time.