In the dying minutes of their match against FC Goa, Mumbai City FC's Diego Forlan prepared to take a free-kick from outside the box. The four minutes of added time had almost run out, but Forlan took his time with the kick, before whipping it into the box. None of his teammates could get on the receiving end of it, and as the Uruguayan let out a frustrated cry, it summed up Mumbai's night of struggle.
After a cagey, physical battle that saw more cards that clear-cut chances, Mumbai slumped to their first defeat at home of the 2016 Indian Super League (ISL) season. Richarlyson's lone goal before half-time proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Mumbai coach Alexandre Guimaraes opted for an attacking 4-2-3-1 as Forlan returned to the side after missing three games due to injury. Rakesh Oram, the 18-year-old from Odisha, was given his first ever ISL start. Their attacking trio of Sony Norde, Krisztian Vadocz and Matias Defederico should have ideally helped Mumbai create a plethora of opportunities, but the hosts were let down by their finishing.
In fact, Mumbai started the match well, and were the better side in the first quarter. Defederico's crosses into the box and Norde's spirited runs down the flank troubled the Goans' defence, but they soon realised it wouldn't be easy to break it down. Goa tackled, fouled and roughened the Blues,
The home team started the match off well, and were the better side in the first quarter of the match. Defederico’s crosses into the box and Norde’s spirited runs down the flank troubled the opponents’ defence but they soon realized it wouldn’t be easy to break it down. The Goa players tackled, fouled and roughened the Blues, making it a very physical encounter from the word go.
Goa's midfielder Pratesh Shirodkar was the first player to be cautioned, for a foul on Defederico in the 18th minute. From the ensuing free kick, Forlan attempted to score but ended up missing the target completely. Minutes later, he would have another similar chance, which he swung into the box. This time around, Goa's defenders cleared the ball easily.
Despite enjoying more possession, Mumbai struggled to create any goal-scoring opportunities from open play and soon paid the price for it. Four minutes before half-time, Julio Cesar lofted in a free-kick from an acute angle on the right side of the box. Richarlyson made a surging run past the Mumbai defence and scored with a brilliant half-volley to put the Gaurs ahead.
Immediately after the break, the visitors could have doubled their lead, but Robin Singh missed a sitter in front of goal — the best chance either side created all night.
Guimaraes' team looked jaded and tired as the second half wore on, and the stop-start nature of match didn't help their cause. They ran out of ideas, and were missing a much-needed creative spark. The only threat they seemed to pose was when Defederico pinged balls into the box or when Forlan steeped up to take free-kicks. Goa had previously conceded seven goals in four matches — the most by any team this season — but Mumbai's lack of intent meant their back four and goalkeeper were barely under any pressure.
Mumbai had gone into this match knowing that a win would take them top of the table, but didn't play like a team that wanted to be there. In the second half, Goa were happy to sit back and defend, yet they were the ones who kept threatening on the break. Forlan played the full 90 minutes, but did not look anywhere close to being fully fit. He struggled with his movement and was invisible for large parts of the game.
The home side missed Leo Costa's presence in the midfield and could now be without Defedrico in their next game against Atletico de Kolkata. The Argentine had to be substituted in the 62nd minute after picking up a knock. Pronay Halder was another Mumbai player replaced in the second half due to injury.
In fact, one of the only positives for Guimaraes to take from the loss is Jackichand Singh's brief impressive spell. Brought on to replace Halder, the winger made an instant impact, shooting on target after cutting in from the left flank. His introduction injected some much-needed energy and pace into the game, but it was a case of too little, too late.
"It was like a one-ball game. It is the kind of game where the team, which has the chances, has to score because there weren't a lot of possibilities. The two teams were very cautious in the first half. We had our chances and they had theirs. Second half, we moved everything that we had to try and at least get the draw," a disappointed Guimaraes said after the match.
Goa coach Zico, on the other hand, came with a clear gameplan and was happy that his team could execute it well. "We knew how hard it would be to face the second placed team. They have a very strong attack. We didn't give them many opportunities, it was a strong factor in our win. My philosophy is always to play forward because goal is the reason of football. We had many chances we could have scored from, but we scored only one. I am still happy with the performance of my team," he said in the post match press conference.
Mumbai will have to make a quick turnaround from this disappointment as they play Atletico de Kolkata after a gap of just three days. Having clinched only two points from their last four matches, their bright start to the season has almost been wiped out. With a team carrying plenty of injuries, Guimaraes has some tough decisions to make ahead of the next game.
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Updated Date: Oct 22, 2016 12:02:25 IST