ISL Final: Bengaluru v Goa - Never-say-die attitude reason for Gaurs' success, says Hugo Boumous
FC Goa are not new to conceding goals. Of course not. Their coach, Sergio Lobera, just wants his boys to score one more than the opponents. That's all that matters and Goa were fine doing that.
It only got them to the ISL semifinals last season. Goa rather conceded more they thought they would. Something needed to be done but without affecting their attacking flair in the ISL.
It was obvious that Lobera needed to work on his defensive tactics. That he did, and it took time for Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena to strike the right balance at the central defence.
From keeping two clean sheets, Goa have maintained eight clean sheets, thanks to Mohammad Nawaz and new first-choice keeper Naveen Kumar.
But what really helped attain the balance is the freedom that Lobera gave in the midfield to Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous.
Goa had a creative playmaker in Manuel Lanzarote last season but Bedia and Boumous have filled the void in making the Gaurs the most potent attackers in the ISL.
With a deep-lying midfielder like Ahmed Jahouh, and Boumous and Bedia wreaking havoc just ahead of him, the pre-assist or assist to Ferran Coromoinas - the top-scorer with 16 goals - rolled much easier. Jahouh has made the highest passes in the league at 1394 and has the highest number of tackles, more than any defender, at 113.
And this has been the secret to Goa's success so far in the ISL, midfielder Boumous says.
"As opposed to last season, we improved a lot in the defence," Boumous told Sportskeeda ahead of the Bengaluru v Goa ISL Final. "The coach has found the right balance of scoring a lot and maintaining clean sheets. Of course, we're working on this in the training.
"When Jahouh is at his best, for sure, he's the best midfielder in the league.
"It would be very important he does well in the final against Bengaluru. We're expecting a great game not from him but from everyone."
Goa expecting tough ISL final against Bengaluru FC - Hugo Boumous
But this balance hasn't been favourable against teams of similar mindset like Bengaluru FC. Goa had lost both their league matches 2-1 and 3-0, with the second one against a 10-man Bengaluru. The odds are stacked against them but Boumous says the team has faith in Sergio Lobera's philosophy.
"I think they defeated us because we lost the rhythm of the game," Boumous said. "They will come with a lot of confidence because they lost both games. But we know our quality, our football and how to play. We trust ourselves. It will be a tough game and a tactical one and the best team will win."
Belief stitches Goa together - Hugo Boumous
One remarkable trait of both Goa and Bengaluru is their ability to come from behind to eke out a victory. While Bengaluru overturned a 2-1 deficit from the first leg against NorthEast United in their home fixture, Goa rallied from being a goal down to more or less end Mumbai City's run in that 5-1 first-leg win.
Boumous says this is because of the belief that the team has in itself. Even if the odds are stacked against them, Goa will fight for the entire duration of the game in the Bengaluru v Goa ISL final.
"We showed in the first leg against Mumbai that even if one goal down, we can come back and we'll continue to play out football and style with the same mentality on the pitch. That makes it easy for us," Boumous said.
Boumous, in particular, is quite comfortable with Lobera's tactics. Boumous played under the Spaniard in Moghreb Tetouan in Morocco and even joined Goa in the January transfer window last year after the coach approached him.
"Lobera is an easygoing coach and not strict at all. I knew I had his confidence if I came here. He has his own mentality and perception of the football and style.
"All the players he brings have following the same kinda mentality and football. It's easy for us and him because we speak the same language of football."
Refusing to draw a personal wager for the ISL final, Boumous added: "(Laughs) No, of course not. I'll do my best. My partners and will do everything it takes. It doesn't bother who is scoring or assisting as long as we get the win."