Mumbai City FC forgot all the discipline, organisation and concentration that they had cultivated in the Indian Super League (ISL) to crash to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) in the first leg of the semi-final on Saturday at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata.
On that note, let us take a look at some of the key areas where Mumbai lost the game:
Defending from the top
The first noticeable sign of Mumbai’s defending being lacklustre was the almost non-existent pressure they were putting on Kolkata’s back-line. Barring a tireless Sunil Chhetri, most Mumbai players decided to sit back and rather wait for the opposition to come to their half. The kind of pro-activeness — which could have led to retaining the ball at a higher position up the field — was missing.
And it wasn’t as if Chhetri tried to get his teammates to attack players on the ball. But in the end, he cut a lonely figure up top, trying his best to hound the man on the ball, only to be left disappointed when he wasn’t given any support from the Mumbai City FC frontline.
Lack of discipline
Mumbai’s displays this season have been about keeping things tight at the back. Eight goals conceded in the entire season shows how good they’ve been at shutting teams down. A major part of this has been due to the discipline they have shown when it comes to defending as a team. Lucian Goian has been a rock at the back, and is usually adept at snuffing out any danger. A good header of the ball and an exceptional tackler, Goian has had an incredible season.
But on Saturday, Mumbai forgot all the qualities that got them to the semis and instead played into the chaos that their opponents created with an incredible first seven minutes.
Atletico de Kolkata’s wing play
Mumbai as a defensive unit like to stay close to each other. The back four prefer to close down the gaps in the middle and allow wingers to cross the ball into the box. This is because of Lucian Goian’s ability to reach the ball first in the air. But ATK ruined that particular offspring of Mumbai’s play by placing their wingers at the touchline.
This forced the Mumbai fullbacks to stretch towards the touchline — which in turn opened up the field for ATK’s midfielders to find space to run and pass the ball about. The gaps in the defensive line were formed and allowed ATK to create the number of chances they did.
No clear-cut chances created by Mumbai City FC
Mumbai, barring a couple of games, have been very lackadaisical when it came to creating chances. It showed in the first leg of the semifinal as well. Barring the free-kicks that Diego Forlan was pinging in, the Mumbaikars were unable to move the ball into the final third as much as they would have liked to.
While their link up play in the opposition half was once again top notch, they failed to find that one final ball that could have changed the trajectory of the game. Both their goals came from set-pieces and now it remains to be seen whether Mumbai can create chances in the home leg and overcome the one-goal deficit.
Key players missing?
Mumbai’s starting XI and substitutions were strange to say the least. Matias Defederico, one of the best players of the third season of the ISL was on the bench and Haitian international Sny Norde, who is said to be a crucial cog in the Mumbai machinery, did not even make the squad. The absence of these players cost Mumbai and how!
While Defederico came on late, the second yellow card to Diego Forlan meant that he was largely alone in the other half of the pitch and had no player to create chances for. Playing Leo Costa over Defederico may have yielded a goal but it also allowed Mumbai to surrender any creative chances that they could have made possible in the opposition’s final third.
All in all, Mumbai are only a goal down come the second leg. And they will be playing at home, which despite their record, is an advantage. But the big miss for them will obviously be marquee player Diego Forlan, who because of his red card will not be a part of the second leg. This would most likely signal the return of Sunil Chettri as the main forward. A similar start to the second leg from ATK could kill Mumbai hopes so it is important for the first-time semifinalists to keep calm at the back and return back to the ways that got them to this stage.
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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2016 11:01:14 IST