FC Goa emerged as the first ISL League winners this season, thereby clinching an automatic place at next season’s AFC Champions League, and became the first Indian club to do so in the process.
They now take the next step of becoming the ISL champs, an accomplishment that has eluded them twice in the past, having lost in the final in season two and season five. This time they will look to finally banish those memories, as their interim coach Clifford Miranda and player Carlos Pena expressed ahead of the semi-final clash with Chennaiyin.
“We are very happy about what we did. Now, it is one more fight to live and enjoy. Lets see if we can win the ISL trophy. Chennaiyin started really bad until they changed the manager, but they have improved a lot. It was a very tough game when we played here. We know it will be tough, this game. We respect them and they have a quality team but we are fully confident”, said Pena.
Miranda meanwhile has a chance to become the first Indian head coach to lift the coveted prize, but he reiterated that this journey was about more than just an individual’s achievement. Miranda took over from Sergio Lobera in the final stages of the season after the Spanish coach was surprisingly sacked by the club.
“This is not about me. This is about the club, the club is bigger than everyone else”, said Miranda. “For me, it is about how the club plays and how the team wins. It is important for Indian coaches to do well but to be honest, winning this match does not determine how good Indian coaches are.”
Like his counterpart Owen Coyle, Miranda agreed that past results weren’t going to determine the outcome of their upcoming semi-final.
“If we go with history, we have lost the final against Chennaiyin. That is the past. I don’t believe past results will have any bearing on this match. We beat them twice this season. I’m convinced what happened then will have no effect on tomorrow. It’s a brand new game and it is about two legs.”
Goa have been one of the most consistent sides in the ISL in the last couple of seasons and have been one of the most eye-catching team's in the competition, given the way they play. While they sometimes give the opposition the chance to score with their offensive approach, Miranda stresses that their defensive work has not gotten much credit.
“I think we are doing very good defensive work. Everyone knows our style. We take a lot of risk playing our way. We enjoy scoring and attacking football. When you take risks, sometimes you concede, but the team is working well defensively. We will have to pay attention tomorrow because both sides are very strong in attack.”
The 23 goals his side have conceded was a result of how openly they play, per Miranda.
“If we have conceded 23 goals we can say we have scored 46 goals. In our opinion, we have conceded because we play a very open game. When you play an open match and expressive kind of games, there are such moments. But it is a risk that we take.”
He expressed that the continuity in the side was a crucial aspect with respect to the team consistently churning out results.
“This team has been together for the last three years. They already know how to play. They are dedicated players and good human beings. They know their roles and know what is expected of them.”
Talking about Goa's semi-final opponents, Miranda stressed that they are wary of the threat posed by Chennaiyin, thanks largely to their incredible form.
“Chennaiyin is the most difficult side. It is one team we would have wanted to avoid. They are the most improved side. We along with ATK and BFC were always there. They have accumulated 24 points in 12 games. Possibly, they could have reached the top 3 as well. A team that is unbeaten in the last 8 games. I think all teams would have wanted to avoid. It is going to be difficult for us. But we will play our natural game. We will play a style that will help us go closer to our objective.”Published 28 Feb 2020, 20:21 IST