Durand Cup: FC Goa seal quarter-final spot

Guwahati, (UNI) FC Goa have cemented their spot in the knockout stages of the Durand Cup 2023, following their 3-0 win over Downtown Heroes FC in their final group stage game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, here, on Wednesday.

Goals by Muhammed Nemil, Carlos Martinez and Devendra Murgaokar helped the Men in Orange wrap up their Durand Cup group stage campaign with a win on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, FC Goa coach Gouramangi Singh made as many as six changes to the playing XI that started in the recent drawn encounter against NorthEast United. Goalkeeper Hrithik Tiwari replaced Dheeraj Singh between the sticks, while new signing Jay Gupta made his debut in defence alongside Odei Onaindia.

The opening goal of the match came in the 19th minute, and it was a moment of sheer brilliance from Muhammed Nemil that set the tone for the Gaurs’ dominance.

Martinez orchestrated the play, deftly laying the ball off for Nemil with a cheeky backheel flick, and the 21-year-old, with a burst of pace and precision, advanced towards the goal and unleashed a thunderous strike from over 30 yards out. The ball rocketed into the top corner of the net, rendering the Downtown Heroes goalkeeper helpless.

FC Goa continued to press forward, showcasing their attacking intent and fluid passing. Their efforts were rewarded once again in the 42nd minute, this time with Carlos Martinez making his mark on the scoresheet.

Nemil, the architect of the first goal, turned provider this time as he displayed commendable vision and skill to play a perfectly weighted pass out wide to Udanta Singh. The latter then swiftly maneuvered down the flank and delivered a precision cross into the heart of the six-yard box for Martinez to meet it with a decisive header from close range, thereby registering his second goal since signing for the Gaurs.

Following the change of ends, Downtown Heroes adopted a more physical approach to try and come back into the contest.

In spite of this, FC Goa continued to create chances at will and should have added a third in the 72nd minute, when Noah Sadaoui found Martinez with a well-timed cross from the left. The Spanish forward, however, fired his attempt over the bar.

Finally, Devendra Murgaokar, who came on in the second half replacing Martinez, added the finishing touches for his team when he snatched the ball from the opposition goalkeeper and slotted home from close range in the last minute of stoppage time.

Following Wednesday’s win, the Men in Orange have completed their Durand Cup group stage campaign with seven points from three matches and find themselves at the top of the Group D standings.

Second-placed NorthEast United have four points from two matches, and will have an opportunity to seal a quarter-final berth with the Gaurs, provided they beat Downtown Heroes in their final game on Sunday.

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