This was the average positioning of the players of both teams. Goa (blue) preferred a loose 3-4-1-2 formation while Kerala (yellow) decided on a 4-4-1-1 formation. There were interesting observations that could be made both when Kerala attacked, which they did with ease in the first half, and when Goa attacked as well. Substitutions by both coaches brought about slightly different attacking and defensive trends.
Both these teams have been defensively strong this season of ISL, Kerala especially so. Possession was split somewhat equally among the two sides, being 52-48 in Kerala’s favour. However, Goa did not have as many attacking opportunities as Kerala, the visitors recording twice as many shots as the hosts (7 Goa – 14 Kerala; on target 3-7).
Defensive outlook of both sides
Goa persisted with the three man central defensive set that won them three points at Mumbai. Lucio started on the bench once more as Zico was eager not to upset the balance. Richalyson continued in the left wing back role while Keenan started on the right. This meant that Raju was able to cover for the offensive-minded Keenan, and the more conservative Richarlyson could present Goa a four man defence if the need arose. Pratesh played as an unconventional holding midfielder in front of the back line.
Kerala, on the other hand, have had recent luck with a stout four man defence aided by two deep lying defensive midfielders in front. The tendency of the midfielders Hossain and Mahamat allowed Kerala to attack in the wide areas, through both the full backs and the wingers. This build up strategy helped them counter Goa’s wing backs easily. It also facilitated Kerala’s own wingers Rafique and Belfort to implement defence to midfield transitions, advance up the field and even cut inside when the opportunity presented itself.
Goa attacks with Kerala defending
Kerala have been stoic defenders this ISL season and that trend did not change. Their two central midfielders and both wingers helped out with defence, and the defence assumed a 6-2-2 shape with Hossain and Mahamat adding support to the final defensive line. Rafi and Chopra, who waited outside the box, combined well and were swift at transitions and were ready for any counter attacks along with the wingers.
Thanks to Raju’s inclusion in centre defence, Goa opted for a right heavy attack with Keenan playing above Richarlyson in his flank. Richarlyson was on the lookout for crossing options and a ball swung in from the left met Julio Cesar’s head, giving Goa the lead in the first half. Once again, Joffre was tasked with being the creative mind behind attacks. But his inability to play in ‘the hole’ did not help Goa in the final third, also adding to the possession lost index. Julio Cesar regularly found free space behind Kerala’s defenders during quick attacks, but was flagged offside six times during the match. Pressing trends by Robin Singh could be observed in the first half. However, half spaces were available for Robin on the left side near the post to meet Richarlyson long balls, but he did not utilize them. These spurned opportunities could have given Goa more goals had they been pounced upon.
Attacking from Kerala with Goa defending
Goa’s three man central defence was protected by Pratesh in front of them and Trindade was alongside him to perform his mobile, tireless midfielder role. Joffre and Julio Cesar tracked back into central midfield to help out their defence, while Robin Singh stayed up, ready for counter attack chances. Keenan Almeida and Richarlyson both retreated into their own half to defend. Kerala’s right winger Rafique took full advantage of a lapse in concentration from Richarlyson’s side to sprint on to a through ball and ground-cross to his centre forward, leading to Kerala’s first goal.
Kerala played with a pseudo double pivot with Hossain staying back with the central defenders during offensive moves. He refrained from joining attacks, thereby allowing the full backs more freedom to venture forward. As part of the double pivot, Mahamat played in front of Hossain as a deep midfielder spraying balls during attacks, towards the wide areas, to reach Kerala’s quick wingers. Michael Chopra played as the secondary striker, slotting in as the bridge between the midfield and forward. Kerala also attacked a little left heavy, as Belfort routinely cut back into the middle of the pitch to shoot from distance (the cause of Kerala’s second goal), giving left back Josu attacking opportunities.
As indicated above, there was some space generated in front of Goa’s defenders, for Kerala’s midfielders to capitalize on. Since Joffre was not playing in the number ten role efficiently, he was removed for Lucio at half time, especially because Goa went into the break leading. Lucio slotted in just behind Pratesh and Trindade. However, that move backfired when Kerala took the lead early in the second half.
Goa after substitutions
Goa went into half time leading 1-0, and Lucio replaced Joffre after the interval. Lucio of course settled into the space between the defence and midfield. However, two other sources of space were opened up for Kerala as a result of this change in strategy. First, Lucio’s introduction meant Richarlyson, who had been defensive in the first half, played a bit further up. This led to space behind him which Kerala winger Rafique exploited immediately, leading to the equalizer. Secondly, after Pratesh was taken off, there was space in the middle of the park for Kerala’s own substitutes to claim, and they duly accepted. By the time Romeo came on to play in an attacking position, Kerala’s replacement for Mahamat made use of the gap in the middle of the park. In the final minutes, Gregory did play as centre forward in true Samba style to find a late equalizer, but it was in vain.
Both goals conceded by Goa were thanks to defensive error. Chances created were not taken advantage of at the other end of the pitch, as Kerala held on for victory at Fatorda