A frustrating night at the Fatorda Stadium saw both FC Goa and Mumbai City FC share a point each, with both sides failing to capatalise on their chances in a 0-0 draw.
With all clubs scrambling for a semifinal spot, these were crucial two points dropped by both teams. FC Goa’s head coach Zico had said his team needed to win all of their remaining matches to qualify for the play-offs and this draw dents their chances. Both teams have three games left, and after this result, Mumbai are second in the ISL table with 16 points while Goa managed to climb out of the last spot and sit seventh with 11 points.
The visitors made two changes to their starting XI – goalkeeper Amrinder Singh replaced Albino Gomes while Sony Norde came into the team in place of an injured Leo Costa. For Goa, Sahil Tavora, Luciano Sabrosa and Rafael Dumas were suspended and Zico decided to play with eight Indians. He made two changes from their last game, bringing in Gregory Arnolin and Richarlyson Barbosa.
Mumbai were quick off the blocks and had their first chance in the fourth minute as Sunil Chhetri attempted a shot from outside the box, testing Goa keeper Laxmikanth Kattimani early on. In the opening half, Mumbai dominated play with more possessions and chances. Chhetri set up Deigo Forlan with an exquisite pass in the 27th minute, but the Uruguayan’s strike was blocked by captain Gregory.
Norde and Forlan would go on to create two more shooting opportunities from long range, but couldn’t breach the Goan defence.
The Gaurs started the second half strongly, putting their opponents under pressure with four corners in the first seven minutes. But the best chance of the match was created by Mumbai in the 62nd minute. Chhetri had an open goal to shoot at after Forlan beat Gregory inside the danger area but the Indian striker embarrassingly mishit the ball completely and his second shot hit a Goa defender before bouncing safely into the hands of Kattimani.
Three minutes later, Forlan could have scored as well when he beat an outrushing Kattimani, only for his goal-bound flick to be cleared by Gregory on the line.
"I said on Tuesday that both coaches like to play in the same way and recognise that the time is short to get points. We came here to get three points but go back with one point which still keeps us in the top four. Sometimes we understand that if we cannot win, it is better to not lose. There we a lot of clear chances. We had ours, they had theirs, especially the last one,” Mumbai’s head coach Alexandre Guimaraes summed up after the match.
The last chance he referred to was a sublime one created in stoppage time by Goa’s substitutes Trindade Goncalves and Julio Cesar. Trindade made an excellent through ball and Cesar should have scored but his left-footed shot was kept out by a low last-ditch save by Amrinder.
Overall, the visitors had almost double the shots as compared to the hosts (15 to 8) but their poor finishing cost them two precious points. Mumbai have been profligate in front of goal and lack a certain instinct to put games to bed. The Blues also missed the services of Costa, who has been instrumental in controlling play in the midfield. This was only the second game for Chhetri in this season of ISL but he has failed to create an impact so far. Guimaraes, however, is confident that he’ll be among the goals soon.
"He (Chhetri) is doing fine. It's not easy to come and immediately and get in good synchronisation with the other players, in terms of movement. He is contributing and I know that as we play more, he is going to improve and sooner or later he will score,” Guimaraes told reporters in the post-match conference.
Apart from all the missed opportunities, Mumbai also seemed to be missing a plan B. Matias Defederico, who has scored two goals in the competition, had a quiet evening and was subbed in the 66th minute. But while all three of Goa’s substitutions were attacking ones – Trindade, Cesar and Joffre Gonzalez – Mumbai were happy to sit back in the second half.
The only positive for Guimaraes and his team was their defence. Amrinder – playing his first match of ISL 2016 – had a great game, making some crucial saves to deny Goa. Romanian defender Lucian Goian kept the Gaurs at bay with his timely blocks and interceptions. The Mumbai defence had looked fragile in recent matches, and the 90 minutes on Wednesday were a massive improvement on that front.
For Goa, however, this was an extremely disappointing result. While they are still in contention to make the semifinals, they will need a miraculous run to get there. “As a coach I had to change my team and I had a lot of other alternatives to do it, as you know Jofre could not play 90 minutes, so I decided to play him in the last 30 minutes. As you can see we had many opportunities, but unfortunately the goals did not come. Because of our mistakes, lots of wrong passes, sometimes in the distance of one metre or two metres, (it) left us open for counter-attack.” Zico rued after the match.
Mumabi’s remaining three games are against third-placed Kerala Blasters, the rising Chennaiyin FC and league leaders Delhi Dynamos. Atletico de Kolkata, in fourth place, have played two games less than Mumbai and could easily leapfrog them. With so little separating all the teams, Mumbai simply cannot afford to slip up in their coming matches.