It was only a practice tournament, but Sunday’s Durand Cup final between this season’s Indian Super League (ISL) favorites and I-League contenders has provided a lot of talking points at the start of the new season.
FC Goa, the only undefeated team in the final-going Durand Cup, maintained their 100 per cent record with a 1–0 win over Mohammedan Sporting to become the champions of Asia’s oldest cup competition after extra time. 34,000 fans at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
— FC Goa (@FCGoaOfficial) 3 October 2021
There weren’t many clear chances – Sporting dismissed a goal for a violation in build-up play and Goa came close occasionally in the final few seconds – in regulation time of the scary, physical match. But in the first half of extra time, Goa skipper Edu Bedia curled in a graceful free-kick from about 25 yards, which jumped awkwardly between the defense line and the goalkeeper and rolled into the net.
The goal helped Goa’s Spanish coach Juan Ferrando to his first title with the club after taking over last year. But Ferrando is smart enough not to shy away from results – even if it is ideal preparation for the season – as much as the performances over the past few weeks.
Ferrando handled a strong team before the start of last season and transformed them into an even stronger unit after a slow start. Their AFC Champions League campaign in June was proof that Goa, the minor in their group, made solid performances in defense and midfield to steal points against more established teams from across the continent.
Four months have passed since then, an off-season longer than Ferrando and his players would have been used to back home, so for Ferrando, the Durand Cup would once again be ready to prepare his side for what would happen. Became a perfect tournament for A tough ISL season inside a bio-secure bubble.
Goa were the favorites ahead of the tournament, fielding their strongest team with all players except the national team on duty for the SAFF Cup traveling to Kolkata. In the absence of Brandon Fernandes & Co, young forwards Devendra Murgaonkar and Mohammad Nemil made their presence felt, shining under Bedia’s lead, the goal scorer to win them the title.
Bedia controlled the pace and possession in midfield with Alberto Noguera as expected from him, but the performance of Murgaonkar, who scored five goals, and Nemil would be Goa’s biggest achievement. According to early indications, Ferrando’s Goa will be one of the teams to beat in the new ISL season, which begins next month.
The same can be said of Mohammedan Sporting. The club has made rapid progress over the years and their stellar performance in this competition is bound to raise the expectations of the team’s fans, who filled the stands at Salt Lake Stadium, though only to 50 percent of the actual capacity. . allowed due to COVID-19 protocol
Coach Andrey Chernyshov, who is on a multi-year contract, relies heavily on Trinidad and Tobago attacker Marcus Josef and midfielder Nikola Stojanovic for the I-League season, but performances from young players such as Brandon Vanlalremdika and Azharuddin Mallick have attracted fans. would have received. base excited.
On Sunday, Sporting ran out of steam after a couple of weeks – and also the fact that the team is also participating in the Calcutta Football League together. They were second after the most balls and had disciplinary issues, with three players – Malik, Stojanovic and Shahar Shaheen – getting booked in quick succession.
Sporting didn’t find its rhythm, but the fact that he led the ISL team to extra time despite his best performances would give his Russian coach Chernyshov a lot to look forward to.