MARGAO: Season 1. Zico's FC Goa are in hot water after losing four of their first six games in the brand new league. The Brazilian turns to youngsters Mandar Rao Desai and Romeo Fernandes' wide running to hand a new lease of life to Goa. A maestro's touch!
Two years on. Season 2. Deja vu for Zico. Played six, lost four! He goes back to the wing-back system starting Mandar and Romeo together for the first time this ISL. But the result — a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Delhi Dynamos — wasn't what the coach was hoping for.
Goa have now lost all three of their home games at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here — a venue where they lost just once the previous season. And with seven games left and four points to the credit, they are some way off the magical '20-point' target Zico believes will take them to the knock-out stages.
"Our situation is complicated and difficult. Now, we need to win at least five games from the seven remaining matches. But we are still breathing and as long as we are breathing, we have hope," the Goa head coach said after the match.
Zico had conceded before the game that the team has to improve as a whole and a shift in shape almost looked to have worked. Things would have been different had they converted the chances which came their way in the first half and early in the second.
But it was Delhi, spurred by the fresh legs of Marcelinho, who had the glory on the day. "We had plenty of chances in the game and also hit the post. In 10 minutes, they scored two goals and punished our defence. We train so that this kind of things don't happen but they happened today (Sunday)," Zico said.
Zico was also livid about a penalty appeal turned down by the referee after Raju Gaikwad's header from a Joffre corner hit Delhi defender Ruben Rocha's hand early in the second period. Gregory Arnolin, an unused substitute, even got himself booked arguing the call with the assistant referee.
"The score was 0-0. But I can't say anything. If I say something, they will say I broke the rules," said Zico, when asked about the penalty calls. "When we lose, we are never happy. But I'm pleased with my players for the spirit with which they fought in the game. They didn't give up till the end," he said.
Goa will next travel to Pune to face FC Pune City on Thursday. And only a win against the home side will help the Goans or the mountain they have to climb will get even taller.