PANJIM: It was the 43rd minute when Goa were just settling in the high-octane final battle against a strong Bengaluru FC, when suddenly, the Gaur skipper Mandar Rao Dessai was seen down flat on the field. And this time it was sure he wouldn’t be able to continue anymore as moments earlier he was down while making a sprint past Kabra of a counter attack pulling his hamstring.
Substitution was evident. The football pundits and the crowd were puzzled who would replace the attacking wing back. Sergio had little option at his disposal and chose to repose his faith in a young left full back Saviour Gama –who had earlier played just one game for the Gaurs. There were doubts on the introduction of such an inexperienced player who would be facing the might of Udanta Singh on the left flank but Sergio knew his job well.
“The injury was a blow to our game plan. But I didn’t expect coach would introduce me in his plan. I was surprised that he opted to play me in the final game at that stage,” explained Saviour Gama.
Saviour had 45 minutes to his test. While they might have looked just a half of a game, these 45 minutes were surely the longest minutes the lad had played.
Saviour was thick in the action in the second half and showed why Sergio opted to throw him in the ring. The 21-year-old looked teeny on field but his game was spot on. The fans soon backed the lad with his every defensive move.
“At first I didn’t know how to take on Udanta but Fall and Pena guided me how to mark him and then it was easy for me,” added Saviour.
Though Goa lost the battle, Sergio Lobera had lots of positive from this game. The Spaniard was happy to see his team’s developmental player Saviour Gama performing at the biggest stage after being introduced as a substitute for the injured Mandar Rao Desai.
“It is obviously sad when a player gets injured because every player was looking forward to playing the final. But we introduced him for the second time this season, one of our developmental players (Saviour Gama). I want to congratulate him as he did a great job today. He has shown how mature he is,” said Lobera speaking during the post-match conference following his game.
The left flank was all about Jesrey no 21 as the two 21s (Udanta Singh) battled out throughout the second half. Saviour stood out! He made it difficult for Bengaluru player maker throughout the game.
Bengaluru FC coach Carles Cuadrat also praised the youngster and added. “Mandar (Rao Desai) is important for game, but the young boy (Saviour Gama) who replaced him was doing a good job and he was working hard with (to stop) Udanta (Singh),” he said.
Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri too accepted Saviour was at his best and made it difficult for Udanta.
“I am happy that I was noticed by the opposition camp but that has little impact at the moment. Losing the title is the worst feeling,” added Saviour Gama, who now says they have to keep the memories behind and concentrate on the Super Cup.
Goa’s centre back –Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena too supported the 21-year-old at the back making it tough for Bengaluru FC.
Gama spewed some delectable passes upfront too in the closing stages of the regulation time which nearly gave Goa the goal but the keeper was first to react on both occasion.