BENGALURU: FC Goa have made it to the Indian Super League Playoffs as they drew 0-0 against Hyderabad FC at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday. With one point from the clash, the Gaurs have finished the group stages in fourth place with 31 points while Hyderabad, who needed three points to qualify, finished one place below on 29 points.
It is an incredible feat for Goa, who have reached the playoffs for the fourth season in a row and sixth overall. ATK Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City, NorthEast United FC and Goa are the four teams in the Playoffs.
However, Goa should consider themselves lucky to end the game with a point. It could have been some major heartbreak for Juan Ferrando and his men had goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh not made some crucial saves in the dying minutes of the contest.
With it being such an important contest in the context of qualifications, it was evident that neither team wanted to concede first as it would make matters difficult and invite pressure. So, it was one of those contests in the first half, which was quite cagey and there were not many clear cut chances to break the deadlock through the Nizams, at times, did look threatening. Most of the game was in the midfield, and one hoped that the game would open up in the second half.
In the 50th minute, Goa made a good offensive move, but Redeem Tlang's shot at goal could only rattle the side netting. As it was Hyderabad in need to take the game to the opposition, they brought in some fresh legs with Sahil Tavora, Liston Colaco and Roland Alberg with the hope of changing the scoreline. They had around 20 minutes left on the clock to extend their ISL stay.
The game also began to heat up as Lluis Sastre and Alberto Noguera were given marching orders. If the former threw a water bottle at the Goa bench, the latter reacted. Sastre was given the red directly while Noguera was given the second yellow.
At the end, Dheeraj deserves a special mention as the goalkeeper dived low to stop Alberg's shot, and was eventually cleared off by Ivan Gonzalez with Hyderabad players waiting to pounce on that ball in the 94th minute. The goalkeeper was not done yet as the Manipuri came up with the save of the game. A long ball into the Goa box was headed by Adil Khan towards his own post, but Dheeraj dived backwards to make an acrobatic save and deny Hyderabad the all-important goal.