ISL 2020-21: Liston Colaco's ability to make football look simple key to Hyderabad's win

Liston Colaco, left, got the better of Scott Neville to assist Halicharan Narzary for Hyderabad FC's third goal. Deepak Malik/Sportzpics for ISL

It's the 68th minute of Hyderabad FC's 3-2 win over SC East Bengal. Scott Neville's eyes are saying, "No, no, no". His feet are screaming it louder. Liston Colaco has been on for 23 minutes and he has already wrecked the East Bengal left flank. Now he's switched, to attack the right, and he has Neville in his sights. And there's no hesitation.

"No, no, no".

A couple of quick stepovers, a dip of the shoulder to the left, a swerve to the right and Neville - as Sir Alex Ferguson would have put it - has twisted blood. By the time Colaco has backed him into the box, it's over.

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Sehnaj Singh races over to help his experienced mate, but they are both dismissed with a disdainful step to the left. A quick look up, and an inch-perfect pass across the face of goal, and Halicharan Narzary is touching it in from a yard out.

When you're this good, you can make football look pretty darn simple.

Hyderabad had spent the whole of the first half playing pretty, quick-passing football that pulled the opposition defence asunder but with no end product to show for it. Not even from the penalty spot. East Bengal had nicked a goal on an efficient, incisive counter, and with the profligacy of Hyderabad's forwards, it had looked like it would be a night spent ruing missed chances and defensive lapses.

At half-time, on came Colaco.

His first run served notice -- picking up the ball near the halfway line, running straight at the East Bengal defence. Foul, nothing coming off it. His second saw him evade two increasingly desperate tackles before passing it on to Mohammad Yasir, who swiped wildly at it. Then he upped the tempo even further.

He would hug the right touchline, receive the ball and run, Narayan Das waddling behind in his wake. On the few occasions Das got close enough, Colaco's ankles took the rap. It was from one of those Das-on-Colaco fouls that Hyderabad got their first goal. Yasir whipped in a delicious ball that Aridane Santana (he of the penalty miss from the first half) flicked on into the far corner.

Just 39 seconds later, Colaco was at it again. The Hyderabad high-press robbed a lackadaisical Jacques Maghoma off the ball, Yasir fed it out wide to Colaco and he played a sublime ball through five white shirts to give Aridane the simplest of tap-ins. The vision to see the ball, the skill to execute it, the calmness to just do it -- exactly the things that had been missing from Hyderabad's first-half performance.

Then, of course, came the exorcism of Neville.

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Hyderabad saw it fit to gift East Bengal another goal late on -- Maghoma's second -- but they never really looked like letting the lead slip. Their see-the-game-out plan was simple, give Colaco the ball and let the man run. By the end, he had received so many kicks, he was in no shape to come on-screen and accept one of the multitude of post-match awards the ISL has.

Robbie Fowler, as is becoming tradition, would lament the poor performance of his players, at one point saying that they seem not to be able to bridge the gap between the I-League and the ISL. Perhaps it was fitting then that it was a player who spent last season on the fringes of the squad at Hyderabad, and the season before that in the I-League second division with the FC Goa developmental squad, that put his team to the sword. Indians and foreigners to a man, they could not get close to Colaco, who had learnt his trade in the local leagues of Goa and the rough and tumble of the Santosh Trophy.

The wider Indian football world had gotten glimpses of Colaco's talent towards the end of last season, and teasers at the start of this one. Now, this performance. On a balmy Tuesday night in his native Goa, Colaco showed us just what he is capable of.