In what was undoubtedly the game of the season thus far, NorthEast United and FC Goa played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in Guwahati. Sergio Lobera’s side were odds-on favourites to win the game, yet the tactical nous of opposing head coach, Eelco Schattorie meant that FC Goa had to settle for a draw. Straight from the outset, you could see that NorthEast United were much more relaxed on the ball than there were under Joao de Deus and they actually had a plan. Imagine that, having a plan actually works! Shock horror.

There were no real surprises in either side’s starting XI. Maybe you could call Lobera opting for Nawaz over Kattimani a surprise. After all, Mohammad Nawaz is still wet behind the ears in goalkeeping terms and we found that in abundance with the game still very young. Before we get onto the actual action, let’s take a look at the lineups.

Both sides went like-for-like in terms of formation. Credit: SofaScore.

Formations Don’t Tell The Full Story

As you can see from the image, both teams apparently set up with a 4-2-3-1 shape, although, upon closer inspection, both teams played with the single midfield pivot. I’ll show you both sides average position in a little while, however, Jahouh was FC Goa’s. NorthEast’s start off as Borges, but changed to Leudo after FC Goa went 2-1 up. Speaking of goals, let’s get on with the action!

De·lib·er·ate | adjective | dəˈlib(ə)rət | 1.done consciously and intentionally. If you haven’t already seen it, I’d recommend you watch NorthEast’s first goal as it was ridiculous. In fact, it pretty much sums up the ISL in a nutshell. A lofted through ball was played to Ogbeche, he was offside. End of discussion. Not exactly. While he was 100% offside, the linesman never flagged for it and the referee never blew the whistle to award the freekick as Ogbeche held his run and didn’t interfere. Referring back to Mohammad Nawaz, he came out of his box, caught the ball and prepared to take a defensive set piece. In turn, the referee awarded a free-kick to NorthEast and the quick thinking of Federico Gallego put them one to the good. He put it over the keeper and despite half-hearted protests from FC Goa, the goal stood.

Red Card?

Should it have been a red card, though? Nawaz didn’t catch the ball by accident, yet he wasn’t shown a card or anything along those lines. Personally speaking, I think it was the right decision as he didn’t consciously do it to commit an offence, he did it because he thought it was a free-kick. Therefore it wasn’t deliberate and we can all move on. Nothing should be taken away from Gallego, it was an excellent finish and a great start to his life in India. Did NorthEast score too early, though? I’ve always hated that saying, how can you score too early? If you sit back and invite the other team on after going into the ascendancy, I can understand it. NorthEast didn’t do that.

Not too long after they opened the scoring, it was almost two. Gallego flashed a ball across the face of the goal and if Ogbeche was braver, he could’ve got there. Unsurprisingly, it was Coro who drew FC Goa level.

Mistakes Prove Costly

Jackichand’s delivery for Coro’s goal was pinpoint. He was afforded far too much time, though. The back four of NorthEast were not quick enough to react to the ball out wide and Nikhil Kadam’s awareness of what around him wasn’t good enough. That accompanied with TP’s lack of conviction when coming off his line resulted in the ball just hitting Coro and going in. Even then, it was Boumous and Coro versus one defender as Grgic got caught ball watching. 1-1 with fourteen minutes played. Game on.

Again, for Coro and FC Goa’s second goal, it was easily preventable. Jahouh played the ball with the outside of his foot straight to Rowllin Borges. His reactions were far too slow which gave Boumous the split second to dive in and win the ball. This left Coro on the edge of the area, still with a lot to do. He feinted a couple of times as the NorthEast defenders were seemingly terrified at the thought of putting a tackle in. In many ways, that’s understandable as FC Goa have an array of dead ball specialists, in many ways it’s not. Coro got the shot off and it was 2-1.  TP could’ve done better on this one as well, maybe he saw it late, but he wasn’t at full stretch when it went beyond him.

The Second Half Belonged To The Home Side

As the saying goes, it really was a game of two halves. NorthEast came out rejuvenated after the interval and it only took them seven minutes to equalise. Gallego picked the ball up and travelled, travelled some more. Played a one-two with Kadam. Ogbeche then got involved. It ended up with Keegan Pereira on the left-hand side; if we’re going to praise Jackichand’s delivery, it’s only fair to talk about Keegan’s. It was pound for pound as good as Jackichand’s and so was the end product. After being involved in the build-up. Ogbeche ghosted in behind Chinglensana and headed home. Not a bad day at the office for NorthEast’s new front men, it has to be said.

Overall, both teams went away happy with a draw. NorthEast due to the fact they’ve not had as much time together and FC Goa because they were fortunate not to lose it in the second half as they were restricted to just one shot on target.

Both sides utilised the single midfield pivot. NorthEast are on the left, FC Goa are on the right. Credit: SofaScore.

Manuel Who?

Leudo (6) & Borges (14) of NorthEast are almost identical to Jahouh (5) and Lenny (24) of the away side. There are similarities between the positions of both team’s centre-backs as well; the reason why there is such a large gap is that the deepest midfielder for both NorthEast and FC Goa had a tendency to drop back in and collect the ball. Arguably the biggest difference between the two is the average position of the full-backs. As Eelco mentioned in the podcast, he really likes to drive his full-backs forward and the position of FC Goa’s Carlos Pena (17) and Seriton (20) will be something that he will no doubt be looking to emulate moving forward.

Jackichand’s game was very promising and if there were any FC Goa supporters that were worried about the loss of Lanzarote, well, there’s no need. Jackichand and Boumous more than make-up for losing the Spaniard to ATK. Gallego and Ogbeche linked up really well considering it was their first competitive game, which begs the question, when will we see Mascia? On this showing, only if one of them gets injured.

One More Thing

In closing, it was a wonderful spectacle as it showed us two teams that want to get the ball down and play football the right way. The signs are promising if the first game is anything to go by, for both of these. NorthEast United travel to Kolkata to face ATK next, whereas FC Goa travel to defending ISL champions, Chennaiyin. Tasty.

Until the next time.