Ever since being introduced at the heart of the FC Goa defence, Carlos Peña has become one of the most integral parts of Sergio Lobera’s blueprint. The seasoned Spaniard has been the cornerstone of the Gaurs’ improvement at the back and he believes, after two seasons, the pressure is on Bengaluru.
Alongside the towering Mourtada Fall, the former Barcelona prodigy has brought a sense of calm to the proceedings at the back for Goa. His ability to not only read the game at a superior level but also to command respect from his teammates has helped the Gaurs forge a formidable spine.
With him at the centre of the defensive schemes, the Gaurs have lost only 4 games out of 25 (a mere 12%), winning 16 (64%). He, however, is yet to taste a victory against Bengaluru – a record he is keen on setting straight when the two teams meet on 3rd January.
“Bengaluru have been one of the top teams in the country these past few years and they have always been a direct rival to us for the title. It is a rivalry we enjoy,” states the veteran Spaniard. “We haven’t enjoyed much success against them, but I feel it’s a lot different. We cannot look back at the past now.
“The last two seasons, it was them setting the pace with the onus on the other teams to catch up. This time around the pressure is on Bengaluru to catch up.
“They are a good team and you have to respect that. But that’s all there is. I believe our team is good enough to win anywhere and against any team in the league.”
This year has seen the Gaurs come through an early difficult phase with players from all over the park contributing to the cause. In addition to his defensive duties, Peña has also propped up with two timely goals to help the FC Goa to the top-of-the-table position that they currently enjoy. Lobera’s men currently sit at the top of the ISL table with 21 points from 10 games – a three-point lead over ATK in second place. Bengaluru, meanwhile sits a further 2 points behind on 16.
The last four games have seen the Gaurs eke out victories in various manners – showing the full range of their arsenal. Whilst they were calculated against Hyderabad to squeeze out a 1-0 win, their precision came to the fore in the 3-0 win over Odisha. And in the big game against ATK, everyone put their best foot forward to concoct a 2-1 win. They looked to be back to their fiery best in the last game against Chennaiyin – pouring four past the keeper and now they will be looking to put the record straight against Bengaluru.
“Whatever the result, I feel it is going to be a good game. We know a win against Bengaluru is going to put 8 points between us, which will be amazing,” the 36-year-old added. “But even if we don’t get the result we want, it won’t be the end of everything. We will fight on and want to finish at the top.”