GOA: FC Goa booked their place in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 final despite a 0-1 loss in the second leg of their semi-final encounter against Mumbai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Tuesday. The Gaurs’ 5-1 victory in the first leg in Mumbai ensured their progression to the grand finale on March 17 with a 5-2 aggregate scoreline.
Goa will face off against Bengaluru FC for the title on Sunday at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Mumbai needed an early goal to have any chance of overturning the massive 5-1 first leg deficit and Rafael Bastos did exactly that on the 6th minute. Arnold Issoko rode a challenge, carried the ball forward and rolled the ball in perfectly for an onrushing Rafael Bastos. The Brazilian calmly slotted it in to open the scoring. Incidentally, it was the same Issoko-Bastos combination which led to the first goal of the first leg at Mumbai.
Goa, however, didn’t look even slightly rattled by the early goal and continued to exhibit their attacking brand of football, pressing high for an equaliser. Despite trailing the possession stats in the early stages, the Islanders carved out another big opportunity on the 23rd minute. Ahmed Jahouh, uncharacteristically, kept hold of the ball for a little too long, allowing Bastos to nick possession. The Brazilian sent Modou Sougou through on goal. Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar came out quickly to block the striker’s effort and Mourtada Fall swept up after him to clear the danger. The Mumbai players appealed for a handball by Fall, but the referee wasn’t interested.
After the 25-minute mark, the balance of the match switched towards Mumbai as the Islanders upped the ante and started pushing the Gaurs on the back foot. With Jahouh picking up a yellow card, the Moroccan was taken off on the 39th minute to avoid a second booking, which would have ruled him out of the final. Edu Bedia came on in his place.
Goa did manage to wrestle back the reins in the final 10 minutes of the first period, but the half ended with the away team one goal to the good.
The home team started as the brighter of the two sides in the second half, with Ferran Corominas getting an early look at goal. But his shot from distance was dealt with Amrinder Singh without too much difficulty. On the 56th minute, Coro found himself on the end of another opportunity to grab the equaliser, this time from inside the box. The Spaniard’s shot, however, came off the crossbar.
The Gaurs kept up the pressure, pegging the Mumbai defence back and even had a penalty claim turned down after Anwar Ali seemed to have blocked off Hugo Boumous inside the box.
With the clock ticking down, Mumbai created a few chances of their own to score. First, Sougou’s shot eluded the far post by inches and then Naveen Kumar pulled off a brilliant save to keep out substitute Matias Mirabaje’s dipping free kick. Sougou did get a second bite of the cherry from the rebound but blasted it high.