The Gaurs became the first team to qualify for and represent India at the AFC Champions League group stage
GOA: FC Goa players dedicated their qualification to the AFC Champions League to their supporters and the people of Goa. The Gaurs sealed a historic place in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday night with an emphatic 5-0 win over Jamshedpur.
In doing so, they became the first-ever Indian team to qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
Clifford Miranda’s men delivered the final blow just like they deliver every blow – with oomph and some garnish on top. The Men in Orange have been on tear-off late – delivering 5 wins on the trot.
The defending Super Cup champions seemed to have kicked into another invisible gear this season – finishing the league stage with a club-record 39 points thanks to 12 wins from their 18 games.
Leading the charge from the front has again been Ferran Corominas. The talismanic Spaniard has once more set the league on fire thanks to his 14 goals from 15 games. And it was his early strike in the game against Jamshedpur FC that helped settle down any jangling nerves.
Speaking on the achievement, Coro said, “This one is for our supporters. From the moment I set foot on Indian soil, I have felt nothing but loved. We came so close the last two seasons, and to finally be able to give this piece of joy back to our fans, I feel overjoyed.”
‘Balance’, for the Gaurs has been a critical part of their success – the philosophy that gets started with a steady diet of passes at the back finds defenders a crucial part of the process. In Mourtada Fall, they have found not only a cornerstone to their defensive, but an aerial threat unlike any in the ISL.
“It was something we have been dreaming of ever since that spot was announced at the beginning of the season. Goans love football and they love us. They place a lot of trust on us. And now, I hope they will be able to enjoy some continental football. They have always had our back. I just want to say a big thank you,” stated Mourtada Fall, FC Goa’s highest-ever scoring defender.
For Mandar Rao Dessai, the taste of success might be even greater. A native Goan and the current skipper of the side, the left-winger turned left-back has been with the side from the very first season.
“To be able to give this to the football-loving people of Goa, I feel immensely happy. We have been through a lot of ups and downs through our six years, and now to finally reach the top and become the first Indian side to reach the group stage of the AFC Champions League. It still hasn’t really sunk in. This is for the fans. I can’t wait to go back and look at their smiling faces,” remarked the skipper.
Whilst philosophy, team camaraderie and chemistry have played a huge role in the success this season, one has to also appreciate the individual talent at play in the FC Goa ranks.
And if someone epitomises that this season, it is Hugo Boumous. The Frenchman has lit up the league – combining his mazy runs with précise touches in the final third to leave all wonderstruck time and again.
His capacity for brilliance has been well documented in the numbers this season and at crunch time, he meticulously came alive. His 2 goals and 2 assists against Jamshedpur instigated the surrender from the home side and helped him become the first player in ISL history to have 10 or more goals as well as assists in the same season.
“I am happy with my own performance. But, it’s the team that matters in the end. It’s the fans that matter. This was like playing 5 consecutive finals, and we won all 5. You can’t do that alone. It’s everyone – on the pitch and in the stands. This is one is for Goa,” iterated the enigmatic midfielder.
“Each game we go into, we go into with a belief that we will come out on top. We trust our own abilities and that of the players around us. We have been here together for quite some time now. We understand each other. I have to give credit to the management for keeping us together and credit to the coaches – both past and present for their work.”
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