Mumbai: There was a simple agenda on the board for Mumbai City FC and FC Goa as both teams clashed in the Indian Super League in Mumbai on Thursday. With Mumbai losing their previous match and Goa drawing their last two encounters, Thursday's clash was all about revival for both sides as they look to establish themselves as early pacesetters in the league.
And in that respect it was Goa who emerged as the resounding winners as they moved to top of the league with a comprehensive win over Mumbai. Sergio Lobera's side had to rely upon two stoppage-time goals in their previous two matches to eke out nervy draws, but on Thursday there was no such drama on offer as they forced four goals past Mumbai's Amrinder Singh in their 4-2 win. For Mumbai, it was their second consecutive defeat in the league, second on trot at home in as many matches and back-to-back 4-2 losses.
Mumbai, under the guidance of coach Jorge Costa, had lost three out of four matches against Goa last season but their only win came in the last match, which was the second leg of the playoff contest. Buoyed by that win, the Portuguese coach was confident of a repeat on Thursday, but Goa had their number once again. Lenny Rodrigues opened the scoring for the visiting side and talisman Ferran Corominas doubled the lead just at the stroke of half-time.
Costa's men were not ready to surrender without a fight, leading to a frenetic start to the second half with three goals coming in the first 15 minutes including two for the home team. Defender Sarthak Golui pulled one back for Mumbai before Sauvik Chakrabarti scored to level things. Goa, however, were quick to hit back as Hugo Boumous restored the lead soon and Carlos Peña made it four later.
Mumbai's defence in desperate situation
Mumbai have been a tough nut to crack under Costa. They boasted the joint second-best defensive record in the league last season, by allowing only 20 past them, but just in last two games, they have shipped eight goals. In their previous game, Odisha FC wingers Nandakumar Sekar and Jerry Mawhmingthanga stretched Mumbai's defence with their wide play, exploiting empty spaces and scoring a bucket-load of goals. Left-back Subhasish Bose had a horrible outing the other night. On Thursday, Goa exploited the same and exposed some new areas of concern.
Three goals came from set-pieces; one from a corner and two from free-kicks. It was surprising that Mumbai constantly failed to deal with dead-ball situations considering how useful it has been for Goa in the last few games. Last year's finalists had collected both of their late goals in the last two matches with the help of set-pieces and yet Mumbai looked completely unprepared for the strategy.
"All of the four goals were gifts. We worked on set-pieces before the game but they (defenders) didn't do what was planned. If they don't follow the instructions then I only have one option — change," Costa said after the match.
When it was not a set-piece, it was the poor Bose who once again failed to mark his man, Seriton Fernandes, who made a free run on the byline and found Coro for the team's second goal.
Mumbai are not known for their goal-scoring prowess and with their defence losing its shape with each game, the coming fixtures will get more daunting for Costa and Co. Defender Mato Grgic is due to return for them soon and the team would be desperately hoping for the Croatian to bring along some inspiration.
The defeat also mounted extra pressure on coach Costa, who looks out of ideas at the moment. The Portuguese, however, is confident of a revival after the upcoming break.
"We are not dead, we are there. After this break, we will return to what I think Mumbai City FC can do. I can promise that after this break we will be back and we will fight till the end," said Costa.
The good thing for Mumbai is that they looked like a much better unit going forward from the Odisha game. Raynier Fernandes and Bipin Singh caught attention and return of striker Modou Sougou should ease things for the Islanders.
Goa continue to improve
The Goan side was the fans' favourite last season for the brand of football they have adopted under the aegis of Lobera. With a playing style based on ball possession, slick passing and quick transitions, Goa mesmerised spectators in the ISL last season with some terrific football on their way to finishing as runners up. They began this season with a win but two consecutive draws disrupted things to an extent. However, triumph in the Mumbai game indicated that the group is close to hitting its stride.
They controlled the game to a large extent and made multiple moves by stitching passes with quick touches. Some of their setups and moves though took a bit long and probably once they hit peak fitness, we would be back to watching the Goa of last season. But defending still remains a major concern for them. Apart from playing attacking football, Goa also maintained a tidy defence last season, conceding a total of just 20 goals in the league stage.
In that light, Goan defenders were guilty of being casual in the build-up of both Mumbai goals. While Golui was afforded a free header, Chakrabarti took a shot from outside the box with nobody looking to put him under pressure. And those mistakes didn't escape the attention of coach Lobera. He was delighted with the three points, but the performance was far from what he desired.
"I am happy that we won the match and we got three points, but we need to improve as well at the same time. We cannot allow what happened in the second half to happen again," the 42-year-old coach said in his post-match press-conference.
All in all, fans got great value for their money with six goals being scored on the night. A keen observer of the game would say all of those goals were avoidable, but then again it's the early part of the season and teams are still struggling with form and injuries. Based on what we saw on Thursday night, the road looks more rosy for Goa henceforth while Mumbai are in for introspection and reinvention.
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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2019 09:32:25 IST