15 minutes left on the clock, the scoreline read 3-1 in FC Goa’s favour and the Gaurs were almost walking around the pitch, passing the ball nonchalantly. There was a sense of arrogance in their strides, in a positive way. They had total control of the game and they reeked of confidence that a listless Hyderabad FC are incapable of spoiling their night.
Of course, there were moments in the second half when the Nizams stepped on the gas and provided the Goan defence with something to work on. But overall, the Gaurs staged a performance that former head coach Sergio Lobera would be proud of.
Transition stages can be harsh when there is a managerial change, especially in the middle of the season. But Clifford Miranda's men handled their first game brilliantly. Lobera’s element was very much present in the system and captain Mandar Rao Desai admitted this when he spoke to Goal after the game.
“Coach (Lobera) has built this team and we are following his philosophy. I think we can finish at the top and make it to the ACL (AFC Champions League),” he said.
“I think if we win games people still miss him on the bench. Also, the players miss him. We still play in his style and that’s why people remember him. All the players and the fans liked the style that Lobera brought in.”
Hugo Boumous had one of his best games in the Indian Super League (ISL). He was a constant threat in Hyderabad’s defensive third.
In the 49th minute, the Frenchman waltzed his way into the Hyderabad box from the right side with some clever footwork but had his shot blocked by Matthew Kilgallon.
The very next minute, he took the entry at the other side, got past four Hyderabad bodies and slotted it past Laxmikant Kattimani to double his tally.
Boumous later set up Ferran Corominas for his first with an incisive pass that split the Hyderabad defence and set the Spaniard through on goal. Involvement in three of the four goals rounded up a perfect night for the 24-year-old.
The Frenchman too spoke about how Lobera’s dismissal was unexpected and made things difficult for the players. He adapted well and made the best of the situation.
“Every time when I am on the pitch I try to give 100 per cent, to give my best. Tonight I scored a brace, I scored from the chances I got and I helped the team so that is the most important,” said Boumous.
“For sure, it was difficult because we were not expecting that decision. But I cannot comment about that. It was a bit difficult to adapt to the situation, but we did it. We stayed focused, we spoke among ourselves because the most important thing was to get the three points.”
All said about Goa’s incredible night, they missed a plethora of chances, especially in the first half. While this can be ignored against a Hyderabad side that repeatedly invited the Gaurs to score, Miranda does have something to think of ahead of the play-offs.
At the other end of the pitch, the Nizams had a night to forget. No positives stood out in what was a pallid performance in all departments.
Marcelinho is often criticised, and rightfully so, that he overdoes and complicates things, trying to do it all by himself. However, it was a moment of individual brilliance from the Brazilian that ensured Hyderabad took away something from the game, as he scored a free-kick from about 25 yards out.
There were a couple of occasions when Marcelinho got in behind the Goa defence from the left flank but had no one to cut it back to and was forced to pull the trigger from a challenging angle. It is clear that the Nizams are just not on the same wavelength as the Brazilian and must put more effort in reading his passes and making decisive runs.
Hyderabad have a lot to work on ahead of the new season.