18-year-old Mohammad Nawaz made the headlines for the wrong reasons last week. Making his Indian Super League debut, the goalkeeper's costly error gifted NorthEast United an easy goal in FC Goa's first game of the 2018/19 season. Despite that, his coach Sergio Lobera says he is not going to hold that over him like a guillotine.
Speaking ahead of Goa's clash against defending champions Chennaiyin FC on Saturday, Lobera said: "I don't think one mistake at a point in the game can be used to blame a player or a coach. I can't make a decision based on that particular mistake."
The Spanish coach even revealed that mistakes at such an early age were not uncommon, pointing to his own teenage years. "When I was 18-years-old I used to make more mistakes than what Nawaz made the other day", said Lobera.
As for who will take on the keeping mantle, Lobera chose was not very forthcoming: "The goalkeeper who's going to play tomorrow, you will see only tomorrow."
Chennaiyin are familiar opposition for Goa. The Gaurs, in fact, won their opening game of the season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai to kick-start their season last time around with an impressive display. However, they ended up getting eliminated by the champions in the semifinals.
Lobera said he is confident in his team, but knows that they are up against a strong squad. "We're facing the current champions. It is a squad that is usually very well prepared in defence and attack. I am very confident in my team getting victory and hopefully we can repeat what we did last year", said the Goa coach.
Goa played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in their opener against NorthEast United and took a point despite Nawaz's error. They were the top scorers in the league phase last season and look good once again in attack. Lobera remains bullish on his team's attack-minded philosophy while admitting that there were areas for improvement.
"I think our style of football makes us a strong team. We have built a squad which is made to play that type of football. As a coach, there are some aspects defensively that I have to work on, but we rely on our attack and that's what you'll be seeing throughout the season", said Lobera.
Chennaiyin's defensive prowess was a key factor in them winning the league last year, but they have lost the services of central defender Henrique Sereno. Asked if the Portuguese's absence was likely to have any impact Lobera replied, "If you saw in the first game (Chennaiyin's first game), out of the four defenders they had three foreign players. The Chennaiyin coach I believe looks for that defensive balance. I think regardless of the players Chennaiyin is a strong squad and defensively they will be as strong as last season."
Goa too have had one big departure in Manuel Lanzarote, but they still have their lethal striker Coro in their ranks who accompanied his coach to the press conference. The Spanish hitman scored both their goals in their first game and looks in fine touch already. He scored 18 goals last season to top the goal-scoring charts. Asked if he feels any pressure as a result Coro said, "To be honest I have no extra pressure. The key is to keep improving every day."
He also acknowledged the loss of Lanzarote, but felt that there are players ready to contribute in their former playmaker's role.
"Yes, Lanza was a very good player, but the ones who are here are also very good. I am developing a good understanding with them and whoever is playing in that position can do it as well or better than him."