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ISL Matchweek 8: FC Goa v Kerala Blasters - Tactical Analysis

Here is the tactical breakdown of the ISL clash between FC Goa and Kerala Blasters in the eighth matchweek.

ISL Matchweek 8: FC Goa v Kerala Blasters - Tactical Analysis

Kerala Blasters vs Chennaiyin FC (image via KBFC)


John Mathew

Published: 7 Dec 2023 7:11 AM GMT

FC Goa played hosts to Kerala Blasters in the match week 8 clash at the Fatorda and it was no ordinary game. Going in, it was the the battle to be paramount, to lead the table from the front as Ivan Vukomanovic's side found themselves on top, being rallied from right behind by the don; Manolo Marquez and his Goan side.

There were changes to both line-ups, some rather expected, some rather ambiguous. The home side lined up in a Manolo Marquez style 4-2-3-1 with Rowllin Borges and Carl McHugh in a double pivot, flanked by Boris Singh and Raynier Fernandes with Noah Sadoui leading the line and Victor Rodriguez in the #10 role on paper. Carlos Martinez was dropped from the starting XI for the first time this season by the Gaurs.

Meanwhile, Kerala lined up in their typical 4-4-2. Pritam Kotal came in at right-back, Mohd. Aimen started on the left flank, Luna on the right. The strike force of Dimitrios and Peprah was kept intact, hoping to continue their magic which rescued a point against Chennaiyin last time out.

The game's opening 3 minutes was a short introduction to how it was set up.

Goa's exclusion of Carlos meant there would not be a primary striker functioning for the Gaurs, and initially, that was indeed the case. Kerala's center-backs had none to mark as the only central attacking player was Victor, who held his position as a number 10. Raynier's role was interesting too, as he played the role of an inverted winger.

Raynier's presence on the left meant, there was an overload on the left often with Jay behind and Noah ahead. If the play happened on the right, he often crashed into the box in shooting locations attacking the left post.

His tendency to take the ball and come in-field meant Jay Gupta had space out wide to overlap. Goa also pressed KB's center-backs to force the play wide and then pushed onto enforce the long ball, irritating Blasters' build-up ideas.

Kerala on the other hand looked to be direct. The idea there was to find the strikers (Dimi or Peprah) in the wide channels, as soon as possible once the ball was recovered as chances were that Goa's full-backs would have pushed up, leaving space. Although this worked occasionally, more than often Goa's rest-defence was in splendid structural organisation to counter any scope of a transition being completed.

The other Goan move that thwarted Blasters from the get-go was the runs in behind. They created the gaps which they could attack through their movements.

Given there was no outright striker, Noah Sadaoui was given complete freedom to play through the center or either of the sides. This meant his movements confused, moreover, it also allowed him to exploit his pace in-behind.

With Victor feeding, Noah's runs broke KB's line often and the scoreline would have been far worse than 1-0 if not for some heroic defending and goalkeeping. Goa's adept ball rotations and fluid movement pulled KB's midfield staggered. The rhythm was a bit too much for Vibin and Danish to contain alone.

Victor finding space in-between the Blasters' block.

Defensively, both teams sat in a 4-4-2 block. Goa pressed the Kerala full-backs and closed the direct outlet to the pivots; forcing Kerala to often go long to bypass the press. Kerala's idea was that of a mid-block that did not press. Not that it would have mattered as Goa themselves were good at playing through the press, especially credit to McHugh and Rowllin who constantly moved, creating triangles and finding the free man. They were rarely in the same lane, meaning Goa always had an outlet passing option.

Goa has always been lauded for its attacking flair and elegant football. But the Don has made sure his team's backdoor stays shut before prowling up on their attacks. It was not as highlighted as it needed to be, but Goa had the best defence in the league conceding just thrice in 6 games coming into the game.

And that record has stayed intact to the dismay of the Blasters. Manolo's men have conceded the least amount of shots per 90, the least xG conceded per 90, and hence it's not surprising that they are the best defence in the division. No wonder Arshdeep Singh is the current Golden Glove leader having kept a clean sheet in 5/7 matches played so far this season. With the opposition defence in top form, Kerala Blasters failed to breach Goa's defensive third consistently. The boys in yellow had just 3 open-play passes that entered the Goan box through the 90 minutes.

The game was expected to be tight, and it was the scoreline suggested. But Goa had a sense of comfort throughout the game, and arguably the first half at Fatorda was the Blasters' worst forty-five minutes so far, at least defensively.

It was the third time they have conceded more than 1xG in the first half of a game with previous games against Mumbai and Odisha also having bombarded the Kerala goalmouth. Maybe on another day, the scoreline could have been much worse, Goa could have killed the game in the first half. But yet again the resilience of Blasters meant goal-line blocks and 'Sachin Saves' kept the Gaurs at bay. Till the eventual set-piece cracker.

It was not the first time that Goa asked serious questions of Blasters from their set-piece routines. From the very first corner in the 12th minute, Goa kept on finding space, their runners losing their markers again and again.

The patterns were visible from the get-go, decoy runs to loose markers to free up a man, or the audacious, yet beautiful quick switch changing the point of attack; Goa made it an agenda to cause chaos off set-pieces. And eventually, they succeeded. A 45th-minute beauty off Rowllin Borges. Even better was the routine, as Odei, Noah, and McHugh ran forward dragging their markers; it left Rowlin with ample space to strike the winner. Although he had to subbed off due to an injury in the process, the damage had already been inflicted. Thus the teams went in at Halftime with the score at 1-0.

ShotMap - FC Goa v Kerala Blasters FC

Substitutions happened. Things changed in terms of personnel. The clock took its due time and eventually, it was full-time. Goa won 1-0 as it was one of the best defensive displays by anyone so far in the league.

Goa successfully restricted Blasters to just 4 shots from inside the box; with all 4 of them coming either quick-breaks or set-pieces; but even then - the luck was with Goa as none of those KB shots found the target. At the end of the day, Goa's resilience and brilliant game management won them the game without much hassle.

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