Noah Sadaoui’s goal powers Goa back to winning ways against East Bengal

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Noah Sadaoui scored the winner for Goa

In the fifth fixture of Matchday 18 of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season, Goa handed East Bengal a 1-0 defeat at the Fatorda Stadium with Noah Sadaoui scoring the only goal of the match.

Goa head coach Manolo Marquez Roca made one change to his team that drew 1-1 against Mumbai City. Former East Bengal midfielder Borja Herrera was given a starting XI role, while Paulo Retre dropped to the bench.

On the other hand, East Bengal head coach Carles Cuadrat made five changes to his team after a 1-2 defeat against Odisha. Hijazi Maher, Nishu Kumar, Souvik Chakrabarti, Nandhakumar Sekar, and Mahesh Naorem Singh returned to the starting XI as Mohamad Rakip, Mandat Rao Dessai, Ajay Chhetri, VP Suhair, and Felicio Brown Forbes made way for the quintet respectively.

After a shaky first eight minutes, Goa gained control of the match and should have opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Carlos Martinez played a ball from the deep which found Sadaoui. The pacy winger easily beat his marker Aleksandar Pantic to be one-on-one with the Torchbearers’ goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill. Despite having the entire goal gaping, the Moroccan forward’s shot struck the leg of the goalie and went out.

The next big chance came from a free-kick in the 17th minute. Herrera nearly produced an assist against his former employers when he floated in a dangerous cross that met Rowllin Borges’ head, although the midfielder could not keep his header on target.

Borges had yet another chance in the 22nd minute when Martinez played a ball for him inside the box, but this time, the attempt was saved by Gill. Three minutes later, a Boris Singh Thangjam pass found Martinez who made a swift turn before pulling the trigger, but Gill came to the visitors’ rescue once again.

The former La Masia graduate kept on getting into threatening goal-scoring positions, although he also kept on squandering chances. A Herrera pass in the 32nd minute found himself in acres of space, but Martinez blasted his shot high into the stands. Nine minutes later, an accurate cross from Borges found Martinez unmarked inside the box, but he could not guide his header on target.

All of those missed chances could not have proven to be fatal on some other day but not on Wednesday as Sadaoui finally redeemed himself by scoring the winner in the 42nd minute. 

Mohammad Yasir played a floated diagonal which should have been intercepted by Pantic but the Serbian central defender completely missed the ball. Sadaoui then found himself through on goal once again and this time, he made no mistake in slamming the ball past Gill.

Roca’s men then had the chance of doubling their advantage in the first half itself. In extra time, Seriton Fernandes delivered a pinpoint cross from the right flank for Martinez, but it just was not the day for the 37-year-old.

Like the first half, the second period was also all about the Gaurs. In the 49th minute, Herrera floated in a corner which was headed away by Maher but then fell kindly for Seriton, who blasted his shot wide. Only a few seconds later, Jay Gupta found Martinez inside the box with the pass, but the Spaniard could not find the back of the net again.

To be fair, the entire blame cannot be shifted on Martinez as luck was not on his side either. In the 52nd minute, a throw from Gupta found the striker in a good position and Martinez did well to keep his shot on target this time, but Gill came up with a fine save. Then in the 55th minute, he played a delightful pass for Borges but the latter could not find the target.

Sadaoui also had chances to double his tally but the former Maccabi Haifa player missed both chances, first from a Borges through ball in the 60th minute and then from a Brandon Fernandes cross in the 62nd minute.

None of East Bengal’s attackers had any influence whatsoever, including Cleiton Silva

East Bengal had a very rare chance in the 71st minute when Mahesh’s corner found Cleiton Silva jumping highest, but the Brazilian’s header did not trouble Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem under the Goa goal.

The last few chances also fell to the Gaurs. In the 83rd minute, two substitutes combined beautifully when a cross from Fernandes found Udanta Singh unmarked inside the box, whose header struck the crossbar.

Three minutes later, roles were reversed as Udanta picked out Fernandes with a pass, but the latter’s shot struck a player in blue. The last big chance came in the 89th minute when a pass from Sadaoui found Fernandes inside the box, but he dragged his shot wide.

Goa stays in fourth on the points table after this win with 32 points from 17 matches. They will now take on Punjab on Monday at 7:30 pm IST while East Bengal remains in 9th position with 18 points from 18 matches and will be up against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Kolkata Derby on Sunday at 8:30 pm IST.