Indian Super League (ISL) club FC Goa assistant coach Clifford Miranda said he was "very proud" of his boys despite the team's 0-2 loss to top Emirati side Al Wahda in the last AFC Champions League group stage match here.
A severely depleted FC Goa fielded an all-Indian outfit in the playing XI after chief coach Juan Ferrando and all overseas players were asked to fly back home in view of the travel restriction imposed by European and other countries with regard to travellers from Covid-ravaged India.
"It is always difficult when you don't have players who have been playing regularly for the past few games. However, it was an opportunity for the other players," Miranda said on Friday.
FC Goa completed their Group E engagements, losing three games -- two to Iran's FC Persepolis and one to Al Wahda. The top ISL outfit drew the remaining three games -- two to Qatar's Al Rayyan and one to Al Wahda.
The ISL side couldn't make it to the AFC Champions League knockout stage of the top continental tournament after finishing third in the four-team Group E.
"I am very proud of these players that they played extremely well, they played to their maximum. Maybe with a little bit of luck here and there, we could have got a result but then we were up against one of the better teams in Asia who are several levels above us," added Miranda.
The assistant coach said that though Spanish tactician Juan Ferrando was absent, the team followed their head coach's plans to a tee.
"To be honest, it was nothing different. We had a set plan made by Juan. As the boss, he makes the plan, and on the field both of us execute it and it was the same thing on Thursday. He made a plan and I just had to execute it and that was not difficult. The difficult part was to play matches every two days."
FC Goa played six games in 16 days, leaving many of their top foreign recruits injured or exhausted.
The 38-year-old Miranda said that finishing third with three points (after three draws) against some of the best continental sides was not a bad result.
"When the draw was announced, who would have thought that FC Goa will finish third in the group and have three points? Nobody gave us a chance playing against last season's runners-up Persepolis FC, Al Rayyan and Al Wahda.
"But credit to the boys for doing such a fantastic job with so many difficulties. We have been in the bubble for the past seven months. It is a fantastic performance by the players and the credit must go to Juan as well as the club for making this step in the premier tournament in Asia," said Miranda.