Bengaluru, April 15: FC Goa made their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League debut memorable by holding Qatar's formidable Al Rayyan to a goalless draw in a Group E tie at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Wednesday.
Next on the cards for the Gaurs is the UAE's Al Wahda on Saturday. The match kicks off at 8pm IST, while Rayyan will face last year's AFC Champions League runners-up Persepolis of Iran.
The draw also means Goa and Rayyan are third in Group E, two points behind Persepolis, who beat Al Wahda 1-0.
Juan Ferrando gave Ishan Pandita his first start in FC Goa colours as James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez started as the favoured pair at the back. There was also a start for Sanson Pereira and Brandon Fernandes, the latter's availability serving as a real boost after the Indian international missed a chunk of the Indian Super League (ISL) season owing to injury.
Once the opening whistle blew, it was the eight-time Qatar Stars League (QSL) champions who started brighter, sensing an opportunity to pounce as Goa played out from the back. They fashioned the first chance of the game as early as the sixth minute as Yacine Brahimi emerged with the ball in a dangerous area as the Gaurs gave away possession.
.@JuanFerrandoF's men put on a sensational defensive display to hold Al Rayyan to a 0-0 draw in their @TheAFCCL opener at the Fatorda Stadium. 🙌— FC Goa (@FCGoaOfficial) April 14, 2021
Here's our match report: https://t.co/DFydNYhpxo#RiseAgain #GOARYN #FCGoaInAsia #ACL2021 pic.twitter.com/9yuExj6pPO
Thankfully for Ferrando's men, his shot flew wide, but a similar opportunity presented itself just three minutes later as Yohan Boli hit the side netting following another sloppy giveaway from the home side.
Goa sorted themselves out at the back soon after and started dictating the tempo as the game went on, and had their best chance of the half just five minutes from the halftime whistle. Alexander Romario struck a ferocious effort towards goal, and it needed dealing with from Fahad Younes in the Rayyan goal.
The Gaurs gave a good account of themselves in the first half and in the second period saw much the same resistance from the Men in Orange, even though Rayyan, coached by ex-Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc, bossed much of the possession in the early stages.
Despite the tiring minds and exhausted bodies, Goa displayed grit to see the final tense moments out and held on to achieve a historic draw against one of the toughest teams in the competition.
(Source: AFC/FC Goa Media)