MARGAO: Goans have been treated to a Hero Federation Cup where their sons have excelled. Together the Fernandes-duo of Victorino and Romeo have made all other Fernandes’ families in Goa flaunt their surnames with pride.
And why not? It is riding on the two local boys’ contributions that both Dempo and Sporting clube de Goa have made the semifinals for the second straight year.
While Victorino’s hattrick either side of halftime against East Bengal propelled Sporting to an unlikely last-four berth, Romeo scored in all of Dempo’s group matches to ensure his side makes the grade hassle free.
“I am really happy to have made a vital contribution to my team,” a thrilled Victorino told www.the-aiff.com the day after he shouldered the Flaming Oranje to an incredible come-from-behind triumph over more fancied red and gold brigade.
The 25-year old India International opened the scoring in the very first minute curling a delightful shot from inside the box at the back post leaving the goalkeeper stranded. The Cristiano Ronaldo fan took up the cudgels, like his idol often does for club and country, in the second half scoring two match-winning goals in the mad last 23 minutes.
“I have the knack of scoring against East Bengal and in this match also I had the belief in me that I will do it again. Now I want to make the final and win the trophy for my club which we missed the last time.”
Victorino and Beevan D’Mello were on target for Sporting when they beat East Bengal 2-1 last time in Manjeri. The lanky forward played party pooper in the 2012 Fed Cup too holding East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in Siliguri.
For the record, Victorino was also the joint top-scorer in the last edition of Fed Cup with then Churchill Brothers’ Balwant Singh on four goals.
Coming to Romeo, the 22-year old local lad carried his purple patch into the Fed Cup from the Hero Indian Super League. Starting in place of an injured Robert Pires against Pune City FC, the FC Goa player scored his first goal of the tournament with a beautiful glancing header, then going on to score two more in the competition apart from stellar displays in the attacking third drawing praise from the legendary FC Goa coach Zico.
Here, the Assolna born wide midfielder has been the binding force behind Dempo’s success so far, becoming the joint top scorer with India captain Sunil Chhetri and Salgaocar’s Douhou Pierre after netting in all four of Dempo’s matches.
“He is an exceptional player and you all can see how good he is. He is a huge prospect for India in the future and I am sure he is will impress all in the upcoming I-League as well,” Dempo coach Arthur Papas was left purring at the post-match press conference after their last outing against Wahingdoh where Romeo’s splendid solo strike saved Dempo the unnecessary blushes.
Therefore when both the local crowd favourites turn out donning their respective club colours in both the semifinals on Friday (January 9, 2015), Goa will know that the football frenzy going on in the happy-go-lucky state for the last 11 days has only compounded to their joy at this time of the year.
Preview of both the matches
Dempo take on Salgaocar while Sporting clube de Goa lock horns with Bengaluru FC in the two semifinal matches tomorrow at Fatorda’s Nehru Stadium at 4 PM and 7 PM IST respectively.
Talking about the high-voltage clashes, Dempo have been the side to beat in this edition’s Hero Federation Cup.
But the local giants will know all too well that an on song Salgaocar awaits them.
The local giants clash in a rematch of the 2012 Federation Cup semi-final where Dempo got the better of their arch-rivals 2-0.
This time around an encore of that match is not a distant dream with the five-time I-League champions catching the eye of one and all with their display in the group stages.
Not only have they remained unbeaten in all the four matches they have played so far, the Arthur Papas coached outfit have maintained the shipped the least number of goals (2) among all teams vying for the title here. But in Salgaocar they will face a side buoyed by impressive wins against Mohun Bagan and Pune FC.
In the second semifinal of the day, I-League Bengaluru FC will look to build on their winning habit when they renew acquaintance with surprise package Sporting Clube in another rematch of last year.
It was an eight-goal thriller the last and only time the sides crossed swords in the Fed Cup group stage. Victorino scored in that match too while for Bengaluru Beikhokhei and Robin Singh scored two apiece. Sunil Chhetri scored the other.
This time round it will be baptism by fire for the local team against a side that boasts of the best backline in the country. With the likes of John Johnson and Curtis Osano at the heart of the defense and settled full backs in Rino Anto and Keegan Pereira, the blues of India won’t make life easy for Anthony Wolfe and Victorino.
Sporting have turned heads after coming back to from a two-match losing streak to qualify for the semis for the second consecutive time. Wins against Royal Wahingdoh and that classic against East Bengal have given them confidence. And with Victorino in inspired form after that hattrick, they will fancy their chances against more settled opponents.