ISL 2020-21 Player of the Fortnight: Ishan Pandita, FC Goa’s super-sub

Ishan Pandita has two goals to his name from 25 minutes of game time in the last fortnight. And both of those goals were match-savers that enabled the Gaurs to remain in contention for a playoffs spot.

Ishan Pandita has excellent movement off the ball and the ability to sneak past markers at will.   -  ISL / Sportzpics

FC Goa has become notorious for its “smash and grab” victories this season. It’s almost become a template of sorts where the Gaurs concede first and then leave it late — very late — to pocket a point or three. Of the 24 points the club has at the moment, 12 have been rescued from losing positions.

True to the stat, Goa escaped from the jaws of defeat in both of its previous two games, all thanks to the off-the-bench brilliance of Ishan Pandita. The 22-year-old forward, who joined the club on a one-year deal this season, possesses an invaluable knack for coming off the bench to score in clutch situations.

Looking back at the fortnight gone by, he has two goals to his name from 25 minutes of game time. And both of those goals were match-savers that enabled the Gaurs to remain in contention for a playoffs spot.

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Pandita scored within a minute of his introduction to earn his side a thrilling 3-3 draw with Mumbai City on February 8. Mumbai had just taken the lead through Rowllin Borges in the 90th minute and looked set to take away the game. FC Goa coach Juan Ferrando played his cards and threw on Pandita in stoppage time, and the forward coolly nodded home Edu Bedia’s free kick to rescue a point for his team. Then came Pandita’s stunning goal against Chennaiyin FC — once again in added time. Alberto Noguera threaded an inch-perfect ball to release Pandita into the box and the latter timed his run to perfection before firing a powerful left-footed drive to score the equaliser and secure a 2-2 draw.

What’s staggering is that Pandita’s four goals — three equalisers and a winner — have earned his side four points this campaign.

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Pandita was one of the most talked-about players ahead of the season. Having become the first Indian player to sign a professional contract with a La Liga club when he joined the youth setup at CD Leganes in 2016, he was touted as the next big thing in Indian football. Having last played for Lorca FC in Spain’s fourth division, Pandita would have hoped for more game time at FC Goa, but that has not been the case. He has made seven appearances so far and played a total of 45 minutes — one half of a football game. However, where he stands out is that he has delivered time and again when his side needs him the most and is undoubtedly the most impactful super-sub in the ISL. Pandita scored his first goal within 30 seconds of coming on in the 2-1 win over Hyderabad, while his second came five minutes of his introduction in the 1-1 draw with ATK Mohun Bagan.

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The Indian striker may not get much time on the pitch, but his excellent movement off the ball and ability to sneak past markers at will, coupled with all-round finishing, make him an absolute asset to the FC Goa team, which will soon be in action in the AFC Champions League as well.