From attacker to defender, captain Mandar eyes team goal

Having played as a winger in the first four seasons of the Indian Super League, FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera has found value for Mandar Dessai as the team's first choice left-back in season five.

Mandar Dessai FC Goa

Captain Gaur: Mandar Dessai has played for FC Goa in all five seasons of the ISL.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

FC Goa's Mandar Rao Dessai creative left-sided player has adjusted to different positions under different coaches in the Indian Super League. Having given the licence to score and set up goals under the team's first-ever coach Zico as a winger, current coach Sergio Lobera has found value for him as the team's first choice left-back in season five.

While the goals have dried up this season (two assists from 18 games and zero goals), his inability to find the net is not a cause for anxiety. Despite moving him to an unfamiliar position, Lobera decided to hand over the captain’s armband to the 26-year-old. “In every team coached by me, I let the players choose their captain, because he represents the whole team. Personally my opinion on Mandar is that he has all the qualities needed to lead this side,” explained the Spaniard.

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Mandar will be one of two captains on the pitch going out for the toss in Sunday’s final (Sunil Chhetri being the other with Bengaluru FC). Asked about the responsibility of leading the Gaurs into the final, Mandar said, “I was named the team captain this year and we have been doing well. Teammates help me to make the captaincy job easier. I have been playing (for Goa) since ISL started and am proud to be the player who has the most appearances for the club.”

Taking a step back into a defensive duties allowed him to set an example to teammates, both Indians and overseas. “I have been playing on the left wing always from the very start of ISL. This year, coach (Lobera) wanted me to play left back. I am getting used to the (new) position. I am familiar with attacking, but I have to work a lot on the defensive part. Teammates Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena help me a lot to understand (the new role). Whenever I get upfront, I have missed a lot of chances also, but I try to do better with each game and hope to get my name on the scoresheet,” said Mandar, who has also represented Dempo SC and Bengaluru in the I-League.

Mandar is content with curbing his natural instincts for a larger team cause considering the team has still delighted the fans with a flood of goals (41 in 20 matches).

Mandar Dessai FC Goa Bengaluru FC

Mandar will play against his former I-League side Bengaluru in Sunday's final. PHOTO: ISL/SPORTZPICS   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS


Replying to a query about the difference in playing under Zico and Lobera, who both have distinct personalities and different approaches to football, Mandar explained, “During Zico’s time, all players had the freedom to play their style. He just wanted the players to do what they are good at. He told us to believe in ourselves, go out and do your best.”

READ | ISL 2018-19: Five matches that went down to the wire

Goa under Lobera has a completely different set of personnel and is only getting sharper as season five final aproaches. “Everything has changed. Goa plays the Spanish style, more of ball possession even when we don’t score. Keeping the ball is priority and even when we concede, the team is waiting for the right moment to attack. The idea is to create a lot of trouble for the opposition in the box. The two seasons under him so far, we got into the top four in ISL, so Sergio Lobera’s approach has been successful," the Goan concluded.

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