Mumbai City FC coach Alexandre Guimaraes roared with pleasure after his side's second straight win in the Indian Super League (ISL), saying his team "defended like lions" against NorthEast United FC on Friday evening at the Andheri Sports Complex.
"Good start, right? We started like underdogs. We believe in the work we are doing. The result is just a matter of good work. You can make whatever plans you want, but if the players don't believe, you cannot achieve. The players showed character and determination. There are days when you play good, and there are days when you play bad. However, it's the fighting spirit that makes you achieve something that you didn't expect. We are in the right direction," Guimaraes said.
Mumbai's first ISL 2016 match was the Maharashtra derby away to FC Pune City, but it was an ugly win marred by lack of creativity and defensive woes. On Friday, they played for the first time at home, and it was not a dissimilar game, with Diego Forlan netting a penalty in the second half to secure an identical 1-0 win.
"I think we had a good performance. You get into a rhythm after playing more games. This was their third match and our second. Moreover, we have players missing due to injuries while Sony (Norde) is away on international duty. But we were patient, managed the game well, took our chance, and then defended like lions," Guimaraes added.
Players missing due to injuries and other prior commitments has long been a grouse for Guimaraes. Mumbai City FC have the unique distinction of having five players who're with I-League side Bengaluru FC currently, helping the side in their legendary AFC Cup run.
"We are doing what we did in pre-season at Dubai. It allows me to show to the players, different formations and different ways to play. The players understood that. The only situation is that we have one plan if the team plays with Sony, another if the team plays with Gaston Sangoy, who was our top-scorer in pre-season but is injured now. It is not easy for the team to perform the way we are. I am very proud of my players," he said.
Forlan was the toast of Guimaraes' eyes after the Uruguayan bailed Mumbai out with his penalty. He enjoyed a much better outing than his last match, and was pulling the strings in the forward line and allowing other players of his team to run into the space created by him.
"I think he had a good game, he plays better with his movements. He is always a threat for the opposition defence. He has played two games, has one goal and an assist,” Guimaraes observed.
Obviously there are areas in which the team needs to improve. But their squad has coped admirably with the absentees. And though they beat a good NEUFC on Friday, their next opponents — Atletico de Kolkata — is among the cream de la creme of the Indian Super League. What they do in that match, scheduled for Tuesday, will tell us where the team is placed.