Ruthless Goa toys around with East Bengal as Iker Guarrotxena scores a terrific hat-trick
East Bengal’s losing streak in the 2022/23 Indian Super League season extended to four games, as they suffered a 2-4 defeat against Goa here in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. An Iker Guarrotxena hat-trick and Brandn Fernandes wonder strike comprised the Gaurs’ four goals, while for the Torchbearers, VP Suhair, and Sarthak Golui were on target.
Given that his team won the last match 3-1 against Kerala Blasters, Goa head coach Carlos Pena did not make any changes to his starting XI. However, there was a formation switch as Ayush Dev Chhetri played as the lone central defensive midfielder, while Edu Bedia played further up front alongside Fernandes.
On the other hand, East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine made four changes to the team that lost 0-2 against Hyderabad. Former Gaur Ivan Gonzalez returned to the team, alongside Jerry Lalrinzuala and Sumeet Passi. Mohamad Rakip, Golui and Alex Lima made way for them.
Goa controlled possession right from the start, but the visitors had a half-chance in the 4th minute. After Gonzalez’s long ball was blocked by Fares Arnaout, the rebound fell to Cleiton Silva whose shot was not on target.
The Gaurs had their first major chance in the 10th minute when Fernandes nutmegged Lalrinzuala before putting in a precise cross for Bedia, whose shot did not trouble the Torchbearers’ custodian, Kamaljit Singh.
However, that miss did not matter much as the first goal eventually arrived in the very next minute. After receiving a pass from Bedia, youngster Devendra Murgaonkar played a sublime diagonal through ball for Noah Sadaoui. While Passi did well to intercept it, the ball fell for Guarrotxena who tucked his shot past Kamaljit.
That goal opened the floodgates for Pena’s team, as the second goal arrived only four minutes later. Sadaoui was the creator this time as he delivered an inch-perfect cross from the left flank for Guarrotxena. The Athletic Bilbao graduate did well to get ahead of his marker, Ivan, and then guide his header into the back of the net.
The onslaught continued as Goa scored their third only two minutes later. Arnaout laid off a header from a Fernandes corner, which was met by Sanson Pereira. The full-back’s header fell kindly for Guarrotxena, who then showed his class by calmly chipping the ball over a helpless Kamaljit.
The fourth goal almost came in the 30th minute when Fernandes threaded a pass for Sadaoui. The Moroccan tried to replicate his teammate’s brilliance as he went for a chip as well, but his attempt was deflected for a corner.
Four minutes later, the visitors had a rare chance of hitting back as Jerry delivered a good cross from the left flank, which found Passi unmarked inside the box. However, the experienced campaigner could not guide his header on target.
In the 39th minute, Sadaoui troubled East Bengal’s defense again as he found Murgaonkar unmarked inside the box. While the latter’s shot was blocked, the rebound once again made its way to Guarrotxena’s feet. This time around, however, the Spaniard was not accurate with his attempt.
The second half started exactly how the first half did, as Goa finally made the scoreline 4-0 eight minutes after the resumption. Lalchungnunga committed a foul in a dangerous position, and having scored against the Torchbearers in the reverse fixture, Fernandes did the double with a delightful free-kick.
Against the run of play, East Bengal had a glimmer of hope as they got a goal back just before the hour-mark. Naorem Mahesh Singh made a stunning cross from the left flank which found Suhair completely unmarked, and from a hand-shaking distance, the winger made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
The goal helped Constantine’s men find some purpose in the game, as they fought hard and found their second goal only seven minutes later. Mahesh was once again the saviour for the Torchbearers as he delivered a fantastic corner into the box, and full-back Golui did the rest by guiding his header past Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem in the Goa goal.
The visitors had the chance of scoring their third in the 76th minute when the two goal-scorers combined nearly effectively. Golui’s throw found Suhair, who managed to evade his marker and pull the trigger, but his shot did not trouble Dheeraj.
Having soaked in a rare spell of East Bengal dominance, Goa had a chance of scoring again in the 79th minute. Redeem Tlang went for glory, and while his shot was saved by Kamaljit, the rebound fell for Guarrotxena for the umpteenth time in the match. However, he could not add a fourth goal to his tally.
Having assisted his team’s two goals, Mahesh had a gilt-edged chance of getting his name on the scoresheet when Cleiton Silva found him with a precise pass in the 86th minute, but the former’s shot only struck the side-netting.
The last chance of the game once again fell for the Torchbearers. The order of the previous attack was reversed, as this time, Mahesh found Silva with a cross. However, the Brazilian could not meet the delivery.
With this win, Goa climbs to the third position with 26 points in 16 matches and they will now take on Odisha next Monday while East Bengal, who remains ninth with 12 points in 15 matches, will be up against Kerala Blasters next Friday.