Juan Ferrando's presence has been a game-changer for me: FC Goa goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh
New Delhi, India: FC Goa goalkeeper Moirangthem Dheeraj Singh, who recently hogged the limelight in the AFC Champions League, credited head coach Juan Ferrando for showering support on him. FC Goa finished third in Group E in their maiden appearance in the tournament thanks to three points owing to three draws. The Gaurs were beaten 0-2 by Al Wahda in their final AFC Champions League match at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda last week. Having moved to FC Goa earlier this year from ATK Mohun Bagan, Dheeraj said the head coach gave him the confidence when he wasn't able to perform at par with his abilities in the Indian Super League (ISL) season seven. "As I have said before, I enjoy the playing style of FC Goa. It is very exciting football. But I know that I have to work on my footwork because Juan wants everyone to be good with the feet. He likes the build-up game, so for that I have to be very good with the feet," indiansuperleague.com quoted Dheeraj as saying. "His presence has been a game changer for me. He has always had my back. He has given me confidence. I still remember that at the start of the ISL, in a few games I was unable to reach my optimum level. But he gave me confidence and that is very important to me as a goalkeeper. So, I am very thankful to him for having faith in me," he added.
The FC Goa custodian got the better of quite a few top goalkeepers in the west region of the AFC Champions League in terms of the number of saves. "It was a good experience, and I hope that this is the first of many times that Indian teams can participate in the AFC Champions League. The standard is very, very high and every match is a learning curve," said Dheeraj. "I learnt a lot from this competition. It was a big exposure for me in my career. The AFC Champions League was a very big tournament for us. We had a big responsibility since we were not just representing the club, we were also representing the nation," he further said. "So, everyone was very focused. We knew that it was not going to be an easy task and we knew we had to go all out and give our 100 per cent. The head coach had our back. He asked all the players not to take any kind of pressure and try to play our normal game," Dheeraj added. A total of 12 matches were held at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao, Goa from April 14 to April 29, featuring four teams in the group -- debutants FC Goa (India), Persepolis (Iran), Al Wahda (UAE) and Al Rayyan (Qatar). It was also the first time that any AFC Champions League group stage match was held in India.