- Carlos Martínez (17')
FC Goa defeated Punjab FC by a 1-0 scoreline at the Fatorda Stadium tonight, courtesy a 17th minute strike by the home team's Spanish striker Carlos Martinez. Goa have their forward to thank for helping them gain points from a contest that they held the stronghold over for the majority of the game. Manolo Marquez's men rounded off the game with 18 attempted shots but a majority of them were wayward and missed the target, with Martinez's goal being the differentiating factor.
Martinez was relatively quiet in the opening 15 minutes. However, he immediately sniffed a goal-scoring opportunity initiated by midfielder Carl McHugh, who won the ball and played a short pass to Raynier Fernandes. The 27-year-old collected it with a deft first touch and played a quick through ball for Martinez, who got to the ball on the move and slotted it into the back of the net on the bottom right corner with the outside of his right foot.
Goa came close to doubling the lead within five minutes of that strike. Noah Wail Sadaoui was the lone player from their frontline hovering around Punjab's defensive unit. The Moroccan attacking midfielder sensed a long ball coming towards him and Noah burst into a quick sprint to collect, control and steer the ball to the inside channel of the left flank. The 30-year-old took a firm shot at goal but it landed on the outside of the net.
Noah was at the centre of a couple of notable attacking moves after that. He quickly got to the end of a loose ball to play a lobbed cross to Martinez in the 27th minute. The Spaniard couldn't head it powerfully into the back of the net. Towards the end of the first half, Noah squandered a fairly easy goal-scoring chance, collecting a cross from the left wing but failing to tap it past the Punjab goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong.
Punjab's skipper Luka Majcen was quite close to drawing the scores level in the 65th minute. Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, 26, came on as a substitute and immediately created an impact from the right flank. Spotting yards of open space, he curled in a cross that was mishandled by Goa's goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh. Majcen put the ball in on the rebound but the goal was soon ruled out as he was in an offside position. Goa consolidated their backline in the final quarter of the game to hold on to the lead and bag a victory in their opening fixture of the ISL 2023-24.
FC Goa will host Odisha FC for Sergio Lobera's homecoming on October 7 in their next ISL game. Punjab's forthcoming encounter will be against NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on October 6.
- Jamal Mohamed