After a nail-biter of a thrilling culmination to their Goa Professional League title defence on Friday, Samir Naik’s boys will be charged up to carry the momentum into their Second Division I-League campaign when Dempo Sports Club take on Ambernath United Atlanta FC at Dempo Football Academy ground, Ela-Old Goa on Sunday at 4pm.
Set to play their third game in five days, Dempo SC have had to endure a punishing schedule. Coach Samir Naik paid tribute to the exemplary attitude of the boys, saying: “Playing three matches inside five days, is only possible because of the fantastic spirit of the boys. Otherwise if you think of the recovery time and energy, it won’t work. “
The Golden Eagles, who were held to a goalless draw in their previous outing at home by leaders ARA FC, are placed third in Group D with five points from three games, same as Ambernath United Atlanta FC, who however have scored more goals and occupy second position.
In their three Second Division 2022-23 matches so far, Dempo SC have struggled to convert their chances after defender Brian Faria’s goal handed them a victory in the campaign-opener against FC Goa Reserves on March 15.
Samir Naik might make changes to the side that played the virtual Pro-League decider and the forward who displayed nerves of steel while taking the injury-time penalty-kick to win the trophy for Dempo, Pedro Gonsalves might be rewarded with a start. The defensive ploy though, of playing three centre-backs with experienced captain Shallum Pires, Mohamed Ali and Brian Faria at the heart of defence, has provided comprehensive protection to the citadel guarded by goalie Dylan da Silva.
While the number of goal-scoring opportunities created by the likes of Beneston Barretto and Necio Fernandes will give a lot of hope to team management and Dempo fans, the regularly misfiring forwardline is also a cause for concern as Dempo are determined to move upward in the national football circuit via I-League and into ISL in the near future.
In such a situation, the five-time top-flight national league winners will have to make the most of their home matches to secure their spot in the final round as the primary task.
On the other hand, Mumbai-based Ambernath United Atlanta FC, founded only in 2022, shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw with FC Goa Reserves at Nagoa ground on Thursday. With former India international winger Steven Dias as their head coach, Ambernath United have been scoring goals aplenty with six to their name so far. However, they have struggled defensively, conceding five goals in three games.
Sunday’s clash pits defensively strong Dempo, who are yet to concede a goal, against free-scoring Ambernath United with two former India internationals – ex-defender Samir and ex-attacking midfielder Steven, crossing swords as gaffers in respective dug-outs .