The last time FC Goa played a semi-final in the Indian Super League (ISL), it was three seasons ago and eventual Cup winners Mumbai City FC knocked them out on penalties after both legs of the clash turned out to be draws.

The Gaurs will find themselves in a similar situation right now – because on Wednesday and next Monday, they will take on the Islanders once again across two legs in the ISL Cup semi-finals for the ongoing 2023-24 season.

When the two teams met each other twice earlier in the league phase, they shared the points on both occasions.

In December, Mumbai City came visiting at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda and the match ended without a single goal being scored. Two months later, it was Goa’s turn to take the trip to Mumbai, where a stunning strike by Mohammad Yasir cancelled out Vikram Pratap Singh’s goal for the hosts.

After the game, FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez had opined that his team should have secured all three points following what was a good performance at an away venue.

“We are not completely satisfied in terms of points but satisfied with how the team played, especially in the second half. I feel we deserved to win (this game) because we hit the post thrice,” Marquez had said.

Come Wednesday, the Spaniard will hope for a similar level in performance from the Men in Orange, who are also on a five-match winning streak currently.

A win at home in the first leg will help the Gaurs put one foot on a spot in the final, while a draw or a defeat will make it tougher for them going forward.

A lot of things are working well for Marquez right now. The likes of Noah Sadaoui and Brandon Fernandes seem to have found form at the right time, while the midfield department under Carl McHugh’s leadership keeps things ticking like clockwork.

Odei Onaindia and Nim Dorjee Tamang, who partnered at Hyderabad FC en-route to their second place finish in the league last season, are recreating their magic as well – this time in Goa’s orange.

Mumbai City FC, meanwhile, have a good thing going for themselves as well, although they will be disappointed with finishing the league season as runners-up. After leading the points table for the greater part of the season’s second half, Petr Kratky’s boys surrendered the ISL Shield to Mohun Bagan Super Giant on the final day.

That said, this last-minute setback could also motivate the Islanders more than anything else, as they look to finish the season on a high by adding another silverware to their trophy cabinet in the form of the ISL Cup.

The Gaffer Speaks

Speaking at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday, FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez stated that though there are regrets of not winning the ISL League Shield, the team remains competitive to do well in the Cup playoffs.

“I feel we could have won the Shield, but you need consistency to finish on top. I am satisfied because we were fighting till the end. For me, the team is more competitive now. During those moments (when the team had a slump midway through the season), we were not consistent. I have spoken to them about it. And now, tomorrow’s game will be tough for us, but it will be tough for them (Mumbai) too,” he said.

The Gaurs have done well lately, to beat Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC at home and then travelling to Jamshedpur FC’s backyard and returning home with the three points, before beating Chennaiyin FC twice at home – first in the last game of their league campaign and then in the single-leg playoff for a semi-final spot.

But according to the tactician, none of this will matter on the 24th April, because of the make-or-break nature of the upcoming encounter.

“Tomorrow’s game, along with the second leg on the 29th, is entirely different. It’s a new game and tomorrow will be the first half. The result will be decided only across 180 minutes or more. I can assure you that we will be competitive till the final minute, and work on getting a positive result here before we travel away,” he signed off.


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