Nerijus Valskis brace helps Jamshedpur clinch pole position with a 3-1 win against Goa

Nerijus Valskis ends his 9-game goal drought with a brace

A fantastic brace from Nerijus Valskis and a late Jordan Murray goal powered Jamshedpur to a 3-1 win against Goa in ‘Match 8’ of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season.

With their first win of the campaign in the bag, Jamshedpur has moved up to the top of the table whilst Goa remains rooted at the bottom after failing to grab any points from their opening couple of fixtures.

The Gaurs head coach Juan Ferrando was criticized for fielding a raw and inexperienced backline in the 3-0 defeat against Mumbai City and he expectedly tweaked his starting XI for this fixture. Lalmangaisanga Ralte and  Leander D’Cunha were replaced by Aiban Dohling and Seriton Fernandes in defense while further up the pitch, Saviour Gama and Airam Cabrera made way for Jorge Ortiz and young starlet Devendra Murgaonkar.

Owen Coyle also made a few changes to his starting XI as experienced midfielder Pronay Halder made way for former Rangers striker Greg Stewart while former India U17 starlet Komal Thatal was preferred to Boris Singh Thangjam on the left-wing. Narender Gehlot came in for former Chennaiyin defender Eli Sabia to allow Stewart’s inclusion in the starting lineup.

Despite the changes, Goa started on the backfoot with Thatal creating problems down the left flank time and again. After a series of corners in the seventh minute of the match, the 21-year old found the back of the net from the corner but was rightfully adjudged offside.

After a drab and cagey half an hour of play, Jamshedpur got another chance to take the lead in the 40th minute when a lazy pass from Ivan Gonzalez was intercepted by a player in the whiter jersey and passed on to Seimenlen Doungel who failed to beat Dheeraj Singh in goal.

Doungel redeemed himself a few minutes later as he shrugged off a couple of challenges to find Valskis in a dangerous position but the goalkeeper once again came to the Gaurs’ rescue.

Goa enjoyed around 70% of possession in the first half but all major chances fell to the Red Miners with the lack of clarity and communication evident between Ferrando’s frontmen.

Goa had a more promising start to the second half and could have broken the deadlock in the 49th minute when a low free-kick by Edu Bedia evaded everyone barring Jamshedpur custodian TP Rehnesh who made a smart save. Less than a minute later, Bedia fed Noguera through on goal whose curling shot was once again denied by a fantastic save from the Jamshedpur goalkeeper.

Valskis finally broke the deadlock as the Red Miners got a chance in the 51st minute against the run of play and they made their opportunity count. A brilliantly weighed touch from Stewart after a Len Doungel pass laid the ball off for the Lithuanian striker and the 2019-20 Golden Boot winner made no mistake in slotting his shot past the diving goalkeeper.

The Lithuanian goal-machine returned empty-handed in his last nine ISL matches but he scored twice on the night as he found the back of the net once again in the 61st minute. Stewart was the provider yet again as his perfect free-kick needed the deftest of headers by Valskis to catch an onrushing Singh by surprise.

Jordan Murray scored the third goal for Jamshedpur against Goa

Jordan Murray scored the third goal for Jamshedpur against Goa

In a desperate bid to salvage at least a point, Ferrando made attacking substitutions bringing in Makan Chothe, Nongdamba Naorem, Cabrera, and Ralte. In response, Coyle also brought in Jordan Murray in the 80th minute, and seconds later, the former Kerala Blasters striker got his name on the score-sheet in what was his first touch of the game.

A long ball from defense troubled the Gaurs who themselves laid the ball in the path of the Australian striker and he slotted the ball calmly past the Goa custodian who has now conceded 6 goals in 2 matches to start off the season on a poor note.

A minute later, Noguera and Ortiz combined to make a good chance for skipper Bedia but the midfield lynchpin’s shot ended up rattling the crossbar instead of the back of the net.

The Gaurs eventually got the elusive first goal of the season in the 86th minute when Ortiz lodged a precise cross from the left wing for substitute Cabrera. The former Cordoba frontman’s shot had the perfect pace and accuracy to beat Rehnesh in goal.

That goal was a mere consolation as Goa will now be desperate for a positive result against a fellow slow-starter in NorthEast United next Saturday while Jamshedpur’s next assignment is against Hyderabad on Thursday.