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AFC Champions League: FC Goa's impressive run continues

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Goa, April 18 (IANS) Indian Super League (ISL) club FC Goa came up with another impressive performance, keeping their slate clean in a goalless draw against UAE’s Al Wahda in an AFC Champions League (ACL) Group Stage match late on Saturday night.

After a gritty performance against the top-flight Qatari club Al-Rayyan on April 14, which also ended in a stalemate, Juan Ferrando’s men played a more open game and had a few moments of brilliance on both sides of the field.

One would be forgiven to think that FC Goa — who are the first Indian club to be featuring the group stage of the competition — deserved more, with Brandon Fernandes hitting the upright and Devendra Murgaokar forcing the Al Wahda keeper into a fantastic save.

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FC Goa went in with an unchanged eleven that started against Al Rayyan and got into attacking mode immediately with Ishan Pandita making contact from a header following a cross from the left flank. Although his effort wasn’t very precise, the early signs were positive.

Al Wahda grew into the half, mounting their first big threat in the 23rd minute. Fares Juma headed a corner towards the goal, but Dheeraj Singh comfortably held on as FC Goa absorbed the pressure.

Jorge Ortiz fired one from distance five minutes later, but his shot was well over the bar and no trouble for Al Wahda.

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Al Wahda did force a couple of more saves from Dheeraj before the end of the first half, first by Khalil Ibrahim and then Tim Matavz taking aim from inside the box only to see the young custodian come out on top on both occasions.

In the second period, FC Goa came out with more gusto and had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 54th minute. The introduction of Devendra Murgaonkar from the bench made all the difference as his good work finally set up a shot for Brandon Fernandes. But the Goan’s fierce effort struck the post instead of nestling into the bottom corner.

It was a huge let-off for Al Wahda, who took the game to the FC Goa half soon after, with Omar Khirbin seeing his header from point blank range saved by Dheeraj in the 66th minute.

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FC Goa were in no mood to relent, however, as the impressive Devendra once again wreaked havoc inside the Emirati side’s penalty box, nearly making it 1-0 in the 73rd minute. A lovely ball from Brandon down the right found the former Salgaocar man, but the effort from his outstretched leg was saved well by Al Wahda goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi.

At the other end, Dheeraj’s heroics continued as he first saved a free kick from opposition captain Ismail Matar in the 78th minute, and then kept out two late efforts in stoppage time.

FC Goa return to action again on Tuesday when they take on Iranian side Persepolis.

–IANS

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