ISL 2023-24: FC Goa opens up title race with 2-1 win against Bengaluru FC

Margao (Goa), March 14 (IANS) FC Goa climbed to the third spot in the standings with a 2-1 victory against 10-man Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, on Thursday night.

The Gaurs have gotten to 36 points with their 10th victory in 19 games, steadily producing a bounce back from their disappointing three-match losing streak in February. However, the earlier signs of this match suggested otherwise. Bengaluru FC broke the deadlock within two minutes of kick-off, making a mark straight away from the commencement of the encounter.

It started with a young duo of the visiting Blues unsealing the FC Goa defence in one go, against a backline that has conceded only 18 goals in 19 matches in the current ISL campaign. Suresh Singh Wangjam pulled off a razor-sharp through ball directed towards Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) graduate Chingangbam Shivaldo Singh, with the latter receiving the ball with a sublime first touch and putting the ball past Dheeraj Singh to draw the first blood.

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Shivaldo tried to double that lead and didn’t settle down after the early strike. Merely four minutes later, the youngster, donning a free-flowing frontline role, swiftly picked the ball up on the far post on the right side, but his shot from close range ended up wayward off target.

However, FC Goa began gaining a grip on the game gradually. Noah Sadaoui barged into the Bengaluru FC box and bashed the ball onto the side netting in the 18th minute. The equaliser didn’t come their way, but it did indicate that things were slowly turning in the way of the Manolo Marquez-coached side. Four minutes later, Brandon Fernandes lobbed in a cross from a corner, and the ball was directed in the path of Boris Singh stationed at the edge of the box. The attacker shot in fiercely, but it took a deflection off defender Odei Onaindia to land into the back of the net with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu being unable to thwart the attack.

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FC Goa was helped with a numerical advantage in the second half. Suresh, star of the setup of the goal by Shivaldo, was engaged in a challenge with Boris in the 47th minute, leading to the sending off of the former, bringing Bengaluru FC down to 10 players. The Gaurs began holding the upper hand in possession and taking shots at the opposition more often thereafter. They held 68.2% possession in the entirety of the game, taking 15 shots in total in comparison to the five of the Gaurs. They attacked the box from all ends and bore the fruit of the same finally in the 81st minute. Midfielder Borja Herrera curled in a cross to Boris on the left side of Gurpreet, with the former Jamshedpur FC winger netting the winner and getting the important three points for his team.

FC Goa will play their next game against Hyderabad FC on April 5, whereas Bengaluru FC returns to action earlier on March 30 against Odisha FC.

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