Shiv Chattrapti Complex

Balewadi, May11th, 1830 hrs IST




Not even Dempo’s staunchest fans would have pictured this after the humiliating loss to Nasaf. It will not be without a touch of irony that if Dempo win today in their final match against Al Ansar at Balewadi and Al Tilal don’t beat Nasaf- they will qualify for the knockout round of the AFC Cup for yet another season.

Group A is interestingly poised at this stage. In the previous game Dempo had a chance to bury the ghosts of their annihilation at the hands of Nasaf but they missed at least a dozen gilt edged chances to settle for a 2-2 draw in Goa against Al Tilal who were playing their  home match in Goa due to the civil unrest in Aden. Beto gave Dempo the lead through a fine header but Dempo’s strikers missed at least 6-7 clear cut chances in the first half and couldn’t double their lead. Just before half time Al Tilal equalized and Dempo went into the break at 1-1 when they should have clearly been 4-0 or 5-0 up. The story of missed chances continued in the second half with Peter Carvalho, Ranti Martins and Clifford Miranda guilty of missing sitters. Ranti gave them the lead early in the second half when he punted home form close range but a one goal lead was never going to be enough and Al Tilal found the leveler in the 84th minute to break Dempo’s hearts.

But over in Lebanon, Nasaf scored two goals in the last three minutes to beat Al Ansar 3-1 and hand Dempo a lifeline. The score in that game meant that if Al Tilal don’t win against Nasaf at Uzbekistan and if Dempo beat Al Ansar at Pune, the Indian Champions will go through to the knockout stage. “We will play our style of attacking football and not worry our defensive lapses of the earlier matches. Every game is different and a new start. We have to ensure we don’t repeat our mistakes.” said  chief coach Armando Colaco.

Team Brief and Tactical Formation

In the game against Al Ansar at Lebanon, Dempo went down 2-0 after conceding two soft goals and Armando knows that his team cannot afford to commit the same mistakes again. In fact Dempo have conceded 17 goals in their last four matches which is a cause for worry.

“The fact that my team bounced back from the 9-0 humiliation against Nasaf and not only won their I-League matches but also came up with umpteen scoring chances against Al Tilal shows that they have the character and the mental strength to put the result behind them. I am just keen that the boys enjoy this game. I told them not to take any pressure as a loss would not mean end of the world. We will still have the I-League title to fight for and that too is very important.”

“I am hoping my boys avoid making any mistakes and capitalize on any mistake our opponents make on Wednesday as both teams know each others strength and weaknesses having met on two previous occasions over the last three years” he added. Armando will have a full strength squad to choose from having no injuries and suspensions. However Mahesh Gawli has been playing with a niggle for the past month or so but Dempo have no other option but to field him in defense. Rouhollah Semeienia will most probably partner him in defence with Valeriano Rebello and the fast improving Debabrata Roy joining them at right and left back respectively. In midfield Armando will rely on his tried and trusted quartet of Climax Lawrence, Ogba Kalu, Clifford Miranda and Peter Carvalho. Joaquim Abranches and Godwin Franco will be called upon when required. Beto and Ranti will pair up in attack. Both of them have scored two goals each in the competition “This is our best chance to qualify and we cannot allow this opportunity to pass,”

“I believe a win will take us to the knock-out stage of the AFC Cup, which has always been our aim.”

Colaco added: “It’s difficult for Al Tilal to get anything out of their game against Nasaf. Nasaf are a very strong side and I will be surprised if they cannot win this one comfortably.” “Since the I-League is at a crucial stage and we have the best chance to retain our title, I was wondering if it would be fair to send my best players against Al Ansar,” Colaco said.

“I thought some players deserved rest so that they are fresh for the I-League challenge, but then I told myself we have won the league four times in the last six years, but qualifying for the knockout stage will be something special. “We are extending our arms beyond India, and it is imperative that we qualify.” Signed off Armando.

Team Brief and Tactical formation

Al Ansar coach Jamal Taha sounded confident in their final group game. Even a draw would suffice for them if Al Tilal fail to beat Nasaf in Uzbekistan which is the most likely result but Taha knows that he would be taking a big risk if he tries to play a defensive game and settle for a draw.

“We have come here looking for a win and I am confident we can do just that,” said Taha, whose side won 2-0 at home against Dempo earlier in the group.

“It will be difficult against Dempo here. They have always been a strong side and since we played them last year as well, they know our style. It will be a difficult game.

“Dempo have a good mix of foreign and Indian players. We have come here without three of our players, one of who is a reserve goalkeeper, but we feel confident that we can get a positive result and qualify from this group. It has been a long trip and I have been trying hard to get the boys to relax and freshen up in time for the clash. Dempo has good Indian and foreign players but our confidence is high and we know that we can win here” said Al Ansar captain Nabil Baalberki.

Dempo defenders will have to watch out for Brazilian Edson Nascimento who scored against them last time and has 3 goals to his credit in the competition. Al Ansar will miss right back Mohammad Bakar (stomach illness), reserve goalkeeper Younis and striker Mohammad Kojak, but they still have a formidable team to trouble the Dempo defense.

Dempo players will be just happy to play the final game knowing that they have a more than big chance of going through. Nobody gave them a chance after their humiliating loss in Uzbekistan but the permutations and combinations arising out of Nasaf’s total domination in the group has meant that all three teams realistically are still in with a shout of making it to the round of 16. Armando Colaco made it clear right from the start that his team was looking to make it to the knockout round of the competition and he knows that he is just one win away from the target. East Bengal’s failure to reach the knockout round means that Dempo as always are India’s lone flag bearers in Asia. With the Blues still fighting for the I-League title these 20 days could decide whether the Goan giants make their already brilliant season exceptional. Its time for Dempo’s 11 warriors to rise up to the occasion and be counted.

TheHardTackle’s players to watch out for:

Ranti Martins (Dempo), Edson Nascimento (Al Ansar)

TheHardTackle’s prediction

Dempo 2-1 Al Ansar