PANJIM: Clinton Fenandes scored in the dying minutes for Panjim Footballers to snatch an enthralling 3-3 draw from the defending champions Salgaocar FC in the Goa Professional League opener played at Duler Stadium, Mapusa, on Saturday.
Panjim Footballers managed to take an early lead through Ruflon Fernandes (8’) however the Green Brigadiers charged back and levelled through Harmanjot Singh (14’) and shot into lead as Gilbert Oliveira (17’) and Devendra Murgaonkar (25’) scored before half-time.
The new entrants who went through a poor season came back stronger and tallied the scores through Harshad Naik (80’) who slotted home a penalty and Clifton Fernandes (90+3’) netting the equaliser.
The Panjim Footballers side led by Gautam Dias made attempts from the start of the match and missed a chance in the 5th minutes Chandan Gawas’ strike was pushed to safety by Salgaocar keeper Abijit Das.
The resilient Panjim side made their move yet again and found the breakthrough as Ruflon smashed in a loose ball into the back of the net.
Trailing by a goal the shocked defending champions regrouped and recovered from early goal deficit as Gilbert Oliveira found Harmanjot Singh in the box who headed home to get the match back to where it all started.
The Green Brigadiers all charged up scored the next goal through a spot kick after Panjim’s Kunal Kundalkar handled the ball inside the box. Gilbert stepped up and sent the Panjim keeper Sherwin Da Cunha the wrong way to give his side the desired lead.
In the 25th minute, Gilbert assisted Devendra Murgaonkar with a brilliant corner kick, the former scored past the keeper to make the scores 3-1 before half-time.
Post resumption, Salgaocar played quite a came until Panjim coach Savio brought in Sachindanand Satelkar to sharpen the attack and it paid off well as the winger’s through ball was handled by Salgaocar’s Rosario Mendes in the box giving away the spot kick to opponents.
Panjim’s Harshad Naik made no mistake to reduce the margin for his side before Defender Leny Pereira’s clearance rolled to Clifton Fernandes whose powerful grounder finished into the far corner making it 3-3.
Panjim Footballers Coach Savio Vaz: “It is very exciting to earn the first draw against the top-end team as all the boys are juniors, they have been given a chance in the professional league and they have proved themselves that they are worthy of a place here. I was very excited as whatever I told them before the second half, they followed it they worked hard and got a deserving result.”
Salgaocar FC Coach Norbert: “It is overconfidence nothing else, We dominated in the first half and played up to the mark till the 70thminute. I feel that since the players are unknown and my side took the rivals lightly, this is what went wrong in today’s match. In the upcoming matches we fight harder.”
Panjim Footballers: Gurpreet Singh, Prasil Kankonkar, Clive Miranda, Schubert D’Costa, Kunal Kundaikar, Mahesh Kumar (Sachidanand Satelkar), Gautam Dias, Clifton Fernandes, Harshad Naik, Ruflon Fernandes (Lynson Vas),  Chandan Gawas (Prisco Moura)
Salgaocar FC: Abijit Das, Rosario Mendes, Sanson Pereira, Leny Pereira, Joaquim Carvalho, Umesh Harijan, Harmanjot Singh (Agnelo Colaco), Gilbert Oliveira, Ribhav Sardessai (Mackroy Peixoto), Brian Mascarenhas, Devendra Murgaonkar (Clencio Pinto).

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