FC Goa's much-changed line-up for their fourth match in the AFC Champions League proved to be no match for Persepolis.The Iranian side came away with a comfortable 4-0 victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Friday night.
FC Goa coach Juan Ferrando had talked about the possibility of wholesale changes to manage the work-load among his players ahead of the match. That's exactly what happened as the Gaurs started the match with as many as eight changes to their starting XI from their last match against Persepolis, which they lost 2-1.
Most significantly, in-form goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem was benched for Naveen Kumar, while Devendra Murgaokar and Ishan Pandita were the ones fronting the attack. Alexander Romario, Redeem Tlang, Leander D'Cunha, Princeton Rebello, and Amarjit Singh were the other fresh starters.
FC Goa started well but first Persepolis goal dismantled all hard work
FC Goa seemed to be executing their game-plan to sit back and attempt to hit Persepolis on the counter well until the 24th minute, when Shahriyar Moghanloo received the ball at the edge of the box and unleashed a first-time effort at Champions League debutant Naveen Kumar. What should have been a regular save for Kumar, however, sneaked under and gave Persepolis the lead.
Emboldened by the advantage, Persepolis started keeping the ball and switching positions with even more confidence. FC Goa's only real attempt of the first half came a little after 30 minutes from Jesuraj.
In the 43rd minute, Naveen was at the center of the storm once again as he fumbled a regulation take, and the ensuing miscommunication between him and Donachie led to him fouling Issa Ale Kasir in the box.
The penalty was converted with minimal fuss by Mehdi Torabi to give Persepolis a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The second half was always going to be about how well FC Goa could resist the waves of Persepolis attacks, and see if they could get a goal back. Unfortunately for them, those plans went out of the window when shortly after the resumption, Ale Kasir's shot went past Kumar and Persepolis took a 3-0 lead.
To make matters worse for FC Goa, centre-back Ivan Gonzalez signaled to be taken off in the second half, raising doubts about his availability for the rest of the tournament.
He was replaced by Mohamed Ali, who raced on to the pitch wearing the captain's armband. However, his first involvement saw FC Goa concede their fourth goal. He spent a second too long on the ball in the penalty area and took a heavy touch, allowing Kamal Kamyabina to toe-poke the ball into the net in the 58th minute.
It was largely one-way traffic from this point on, as Persepolis took off several of their key players to keep them fresh for the upcoming matches. Naveen Kumar was called into action a few times and made a couple of decent saves, but the damage was already done by then.
Makan Chothe, Brandon Fernandes and Jorge Ortiz all came on in the second half, with Chothe showing some flashes of talent during his short stint on the pitch. Ortiz did register a shot on target, but Persepolis never truly let their grasp on the game slip, winning 4-0.