FC Goa got off to a successful start into the 2021 Durand Cup season and defeated Army Green 2-0 in the first game in Group B. Goals from Alberto Noguera and Devendra Murgaonkar gave the Gaurs all three points on Tuesday at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Calcutta.

After FC Goa traveled with a full squad, they decided to include only one foreigner, Spaniard Noguera, in their starting XI. But there was enough experience and talent with Indian players to take them across the line.

Although Goa dominated possession at the start, they struggled to gain a foothold in the game for the first 20 minutes. Army Green had the first two chances.

Princeton Rebello, who tried to play from behind, was dispossessed near the 18-yard area, but Army striker Laallawmkima failed with his shot. A few minutes later, a free kick by Vikas Zanje caught FC Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar unprepared and hit the crossbar.

The ISL team scored the first shot on goal after half an hour when defender Aiban Dohling’s header snapped into goalkeeper Sarath’s arms. But after that moment they started to find their rhythm.

The breakthrough came when Makan Chothe dribbled into opposing territory and Noguera prevailed. The Spanish midfielder made no mistake when he sank the ball over the onrushing Sarath to make it 1-0 in the 35th minute.

Goa could have made it 2-0 before the break, but their counterattack was thwarted by an onrushing Sarath who showed an inspired performance.

In the second half, Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes and Alexander Romario Jesuraj joined Goa regulars. The latter in particular had the desired effect from the bank when he fed Murgaonkar to double the lead.

Army Green didn’t lose heart and kept trying to find a way back into the game. Within five minutes of the hour, they blocked one shot, held one, and missed one.

Their offensive left FC Goa leeway to exploit the counterattack. Redeem Tlang had such a chance after being sent through, but Sarath denied him one-on-one. Romario was also denied by the busy Sarath, who flew right to deny long-range combat.

Goa FC took a lot of positive things from this performance, but coach Juan Ferrando would be happy about a better result. Playing from behind has become the Goa way, but better teams are likely to punish them for making mistakes so close to goal.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee