Mon, 18 Mar, 2019

Lobera’s army set for ‘El Classico’ finish

13th March 2019, 01:27 Hrs

NIRAJ PRABHU

FATORDA 

FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera is relishing the challenge of facing Bengaluru FC in the grand finale of the fifth Indian Super League in Mumbai on Sunday.  The Spanish tactician labelled the South Indian side as the ‘favourite’ for the title clash due to Carles Cuadrat’s boys doing a double over the Gaurs at the league stage this season.  

While the second leg semi-finals play-off resulted in a 1-0 win for Mumbai City FC at Fatorda, Lobera did not seem too disappointed as he preferred to look at the bigger picture of preparing to plot the downfall of Bengaluru and bring the trophy home.  Asked whether he would have preferred to face injury-hit NorthEast United or eventual finalist Bengaluru, Lobera said: “I am an ambitious coach and Bengaluru FC have beaten us twice this year. I wanted to face them.”

FC Goa failed to bring their ‘A game’ to the table in front of near-18,000 crowd at Fatorda in the final home game of the season, and suffered only their second loss at the fortress. It seemed that the Gaurs did not go after the ball enough so as to conserve their energy for the final assault after earning a wonderful 5-1 win in Mumbai on Saturday night. However, the FC Goa defence looked solid with defender Mourtada Fall once again working his socks off and bagging his second consecutive Hero of the Match award, while Naveen Kumar has consistently exhibited superb goal-saving and quick distribution skills to keep his place going to the final.

In attack, Ferran Corominas struck the crossbar from close, while Boumous, who started in place of Bedia, fell short of applying the finish on couple of good chances. Jackichand seemed off the boil after putting up a splendid show last time out. Brandon is a key player for FC Goa and he was withdrawn just after the hour mark as a precautionary measure, thus showing the intention of coach Lobera not to push it too far, chasing a result in a largely academic contest given the first-leg success. 

“Some of the players were not up to the mark and the first half was not good for us. They were probably thinking of already playing in the final. And with first-leg advantage of coming home with a 5-1 record, it was normal for players to think of not getting booked or injured. Ahmed Jahouh (who received a yellow card in first half) was taken off (39th minute) to prevent him from a further booking and he was also busy in the midfield, but was not at his best,” explained Lobera.

On the other hand, Mumbai City FC coach Jorge Costa, who had claimed that his side does not have the potential to change the result after receiving the 1-5 hammering, said that he was proud to be the coach of Mumbai City. “It was a good game. It was very important to change our image and end the season on positive note. I am very proud of the things achieved by the team this season. I am feeling sad not to play in the final. But this is football. If you make mistakes, you have to pay,” said the Portuguese tactician, who applauded FC Goa for fielding almost the same starting XI, showing respect for the visitors and the competition.

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