It was tale of two halves for Salgaocar Sports Club as the club made an incredible comeback after starring down at a possible relegation midway through the I-League. A 7th place finish for the club which was lying second from bottom after almost 14 rounds, coupled with the triumph in Goa Professional League and a semi-final appearance in Federation Cup means that the season was not as bad as it could have got.
Salgaocar had an indifferent start to the season when they let go off they star performers – Ryuiji Sueoka, Chidi Edeh, Ishfaq Ahmed and Biswajit Saha and instead roped in young Indian players, mostly from TFA and Arrows. Newly recruited strikers – Sean Rooney and Angel Guirado Aldeguer struggled in Indian conditions and after a bright start soon fizzled out. The team lacked depth and looked out of sorts in I-League despite having reached the Federation Cup semi-finals.
Karim Bencherifa’s sudden departure to Mohun Bagan dealt a huge blow to the team as the players were accustomed to his style of play and were also strongly attached to him. Injury to key personnels like Luciano Sabrosa, Rocus Lamare and Francis Fernandez at some point of the season was also a setback for the team. After a brief spell of uncertainty experienced Englishman David Booth was appointed the coach and with Booth preferring a 4-4-2 direct style of football, rather then 4-5-1 formation of Bencherifa, several players including Quniton Jacobs, Sean Rooney and Angel Guirado Aldeguer were released.
Booth played an incredible role in turning around Salgaocar’s season. Josimar and Gabriel Obatola were roped in as replacement for Rooney and Guirado while John Wilkinson replaced Jacobs in the midfield. Josimar had the experience of playing in Indian conditions while the tall and physical Obatola was the typical foreign striker in I-League, beating defenders with strength. The duo played an instrumental role in saving Salgaocar’s season – a point well supported by the stats. 20 of the 33 goals scored by Salgaocar came after 14th round – when both the strikers played for Vasco based club. In a shocking development however Booth was replaced towards the end of the season after having done nothing short of a miracle at the club.
The Indian contingent played a huge role in Salgaocar’s revival with the trio of Rocus Lamare, Francis Fernandes and Karnajit Singh leading from the front. Strikers Milagres Gonsalves and Marcus Masceranhas, defenders Nicolau Colaco and Augustin Fernandes and midfielder Randeep Singh rose up to the occasion when the team needed them the most. Salgaocar won 22 points from their last 12 I-League outings ending the season on a high winning the Goa Professional League for the 20th time en-route their remarkable comeback.
Best Player – Francis Fernandes
It is rare that an Indian is the best player of the season but the 27 year old right winger was by far the star of Salgaocar’s campaign. With 6 goals and 2 assists in the season, Fernandes was a constant threat down the right wing and also dropped back to help the defenders. The joint top scorer scored a crucial brace in Salgaocar’s 2-0 win over Pune FC at Pune and became an important member of the national team on back of his impressive club showings.
Most Disappointing Player – Sandesh Gadkari
A lot was expected from the former Air-India striker after he made a name for himself in the 2011-12 season but lack of first-team opportunities and failure to make use of the little opportunities that he got meant that he was released from the squad in the winter transfer season.
Leading from the back, Karanjit Singh kept 9 clean sheets and played a major role in keeping at rival teams at bay especially when his back-four were inconsistent. Salgaocar conceded just 29 goals – a lot of credit for which must go to the Punjabi lad.
Center-back Augustin Fernandes played a crucial role in the heart of defense besides chipping in with 4 crucial goals. The center-back impressed pundits across the nation with his showing. Nicolau Colaco was a constant figure in Salgaocar’s defense and the left back had a stellar season starting in 25 of 26 games besides earning a mention in I-League team of the season.
Vice Captain Rocus Lamare was an ever present player in Salgaocar midfield and played the role of a holding midfielder to perfection. Despite playing only 8 games John Wilkinson played an invaluable role in helping Salgaocar save relegation chipping in with a goal and two assists.
Josimar and Gabriel Obatola ended Salgaocar’s goal-scoring woes with Josimar scoring 6 goals, including a hat-trick against United Sikkim and Obatola chipping in with 4 goals. With 4 goals and 3 assists Milagres Gonsalves provided more than able support to the foreign strikers
Most Memorable Match
Salgaocar ‘s 2-0 win over Pune away from home in February was a crucial win for the Goan Greens as it not only gave them three points but also gave the confidence to beat big teams. John Wilkinson justified his signing as he never allowed the Pune FC midfield to settle down. Francis Fernandes fired Salgaocar into the lead in the 2nd minute slotting home a Randeep Singh cross and it was Francis who doubled the lead heading home a Wilkinson cross right at the stroke of half-time.
A 9-0 hammering of a hapless United Sikkim courtesy a hat-trick from Josimar and 2-0 win over Mohun Bagan coached by ex-Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa also find mention in the list of memorable matches this season for the club.
Most Disappointing Matches
Salgaocar ‘s 3-2 loss in the first match to United Sikkim despite having taken the lead twice tops the list of most disappointing matches for the club. United Sikkim scored twice in 6 minutes to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win. Salgaocar’s 3-1 loss to arch rivals Sporting Club de Goa despite passing through a good patch also finds a mention. Salgaocar took the lead in the 38th minute but squandered the lead with all three Sporting goals coming in the second half
Most Memorable Goal
Salgaocar may not have scored a lot of goals but Francis Fernandes’ s equalizer against Air-India was a special goal and is our pick as the most memorable goal. Trailing by a goal, Francis Fernandes curled in a right footer from just outside the box giving goal-keeper Jagroop Singh no chance.