ISL 2020-21: Mumbai City FC prevail in an error-strewn final, Hugo Boumous fails to shine while Bipin Singh does

Mumbai City FC won the ISL 2020-21 with a 2-1 win over ATK Mohun Bagan in Goa. We look at the talking points from the final.

Shashwat Kumar March 14, 2021 09:42:07 IST
ISL 2020-21: Mumbai City FC prevail in an error-strewn final, Hugo Boumous fails to shine while Bipin Singh does

Mumbai City FC won the ISL title for the first time. Sportzpics/ISL

Mumbai City FC scraped past ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 in a titanic tussle at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. The victory ensured that the Islanders broke their ISL hoodoo and consigned the Kolkata-based outfit to their first defeat in a final.

The Islanders began the game brightly and immediately put the Mariners under pressure. However, ATK Mohun Bagan were the ones to surge into the lead when Roy Krishna pounced on Ahmed Jahouh’s mistake and laid the ball for David Williams. The Australian marauded into the box and smashed the ball past Amrinder Singh.

Mumbai City FC, though, drew level minutes later when a similar calamity ensued at the other end. This time, Arindam Bhattarcharja and Tiri were the guilty parties, with the latter eventually knocking the ball past the keeper and into his own net.

As the half progressed, Mumbai City FC regained control of the game, with them keeping possession superbly. However, the end of the first period was soured by a sickening injury to Amey Ranawade, who had to be stretchered off before being taken to the hospital.

After the break, both sides looked discernibly twitchier, considering the number of mistakes each had made in the opening 45 minutes. In the process, clear-cut chances were hard to come by.

Just before the hour-mark, though, the game sprung into life. In the 58th minute, Hugo Boumous missed a gilt-edged chance to give the Islanders the lead, whereas, seconds later, the Mariners had a goal rightfully ruled out for offside.

Upon this activity, the match seemed primed to meander into a drab conclusion, with both sides looking visibly tired. However, that exhaustion led to another catastrophic mistake, when Arindam, in a rush of blood, handed the ball on a platter to Bartholomew Ogbeche in the 90th minute.

The Nigerian teed up Bipin Singh, who kept his cool and caressed the ball into the back of the net. Though ATK Mohun Bagan threw the kitchen sink thereafter, they were unable to break through, allowing the Islanders to reign supreme.

ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC produce error-strewn first half

Over the years, ISL finals have often been cagey affairs, where both sides have been reluctant to attack at the outset. This year though, ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC began aggressively, meaning that the first half wasn’t short of entertainment.

Unfortunately, the pressure of the occasion also led to plenty of errors in the opening 45 minutes – something that unwittingly ended up defining that period of play.

Though the Islanders started the game better than their rivals, they were guilty of producing the first high-profile mistake of the final. In the 18th minute, Ahmed Jahouh dwelled on the ball for too long and allowed Roy Krishna to dispossess him on the edge of the box.

The Fijian then played a simple pass to Williams, who took aim and rifled a shot beyond Amrinder. The Islanders’ keeper, too, didn’t cover himself in any glory as he went down early and made the Australian striker’s job easier.

A few minutes later, ATK Mohun Bagan shot themselves in the foot. Jahouh launched a hopeful ball towards Bipin Singh, who had made a run from the inside left channel. Tiri, at that point, seemed favourite to head the ball away. However, the Spaniard, owing to a bout of miscommunication with his keeper, only managed to nod the ball into his own net – an incident that hauled Mumbai City FC back into the game.

Apart from the aforementioned, Arindam Bhattacharja looked extremely edgy and flapped at a few crosses. At the other end, Mourtada Fall seemed a touch lackadaisical, being sluggish in possession. The defender was also culpable of allowing Krishna to foray into the box a couple of times, although the latter couldn’t quite take advantage.

Thus, through the course of the first half, Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, who finished first and second in the league stages respectively, had highlighted that nerves play a massive role in summit clashes, even when involving two of the best teams in the country.

While it provided a spectacle for the neutral, it might not have been something that would’ve pleased either manager.

A tale of two contentious refereeing decisions

For a red-letter day such as the ISL final, it seems a bit of a shame that the refereeing decisions, instead of the contest, generates more headlines. Yet, that was perhaps the case during the 2020-21 instalment.

In the 11th minute of the game, Mumbai City FC had weaved a pretty pattern around the ATK Mohun Bagan penalty area.

Adam le Fondre controlled the ball superbly in the box and played a delightful through ball to Bipin Singh, who was then tugged back by Pritam Kotal.

The Islanders appealed vociferously but those pleas fell on deaf ears, with the referee not pointing to the spot. Interestingly, some of the Mariners even applauded that decision, with many opining that it was a dive by Bipin.

The Indian perhaps exaggerated the contact, one couldn’t really argue that that wasn’t a penalty for the Islanders, considering that the winger was clearly brought down by Kotal.

In the second half, the tables turned completely when the linesman ruled out a goal for ATK Mohun Bagan, just around the hour-mark. On this occasion, Krishna was deemed to be in an offside position, even as Mohammad Rakip bundled the ball into his own net.

Again, both sets of players buzzed around the referee, who to his credit, took his time and then arrived at a decision.

While this particular call was perhaps the right one, owing to Krishna’s proximity to the phase of play, the sight of footballers surrounding the referee and trying to influence a decision, wasn’t the greatest of advertisements for the ISL.

Hugo Boumous misses his chances to win the ISL for Mumbai City FC

Before the 2020-21 season, Mumbai City FC fired an enormous warning shot when they acquired Hugo Boumous from FC Goa.

To put things into context, the midfielder had won the ISL Golden Ball in 2019-20 and was (arguably still is) one of the best players in the league.

Throughout the season, he hasn’t quite scaled the peaks he did at FC Goa. At times, he looked a tad rusty and even served a four-game suspension towards the end of the league stages.

Plenty were intrigued to see how Boumous would shape up for the ISL final, considering the Frenchman was signed to deliver on such big occasions. Unfortunately, though, when his chances came along, he fluffed his lines.

As the clock ticked over the half-hour mark, Boumous found himself at the end of a cross from the right flank. The Frenchman, despite being stationed centrally, could only fire a shot straight at the keeper, who palmed the ball away.

In the 58th minute, Boumous found himself in acres of space after Bipin hoodwinked the ATK Mohun Bagan defence. The midfielder strode purposefully towards the penalty area before slipping in a perfectly-weighted pass for Fondre.

The Englishman then fired a tame shot at the keeper, which was somehow parried into the general direction of Boumous.

However, the midfielder leant back and blazed his shot well over the bar, despite only being 7-8 yards out.

More tellingly though, the miss seemed to suck the wind out of the Islanders’ sails, who until that juncture, had done well to establish themselves in the ascendancy.

While Bipin ultimately saved Boumous’ blushes, one feels the latter would certainly be left ruing the chances he spurned.

Arindam Bhattacharja’s life turns upside down at the Fatorda

In March 2020, before the novel coronavirus hijacked the world, ATK and Chennaiyin FC played out an enterprising ISL final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. On that sultry evening, ATK held their nerve to ride over the Marina Machans’ storm with Bhattacharja producing a virtuoso performance.

A year later, the keeper’s life turned upside down at that very venue. The Indian made a couple of humongous errors that ultimately turned the tide in the Islanders’ favour.

In the 29th minute, Ahmed Jahouh hoofed a long ball towards Tiri. The Spaniard, instead of clearing his lines, opted to cushion a header towards his keeper. The only problem was that Arindam had come scurrying out towards Tiri, meaning that the ball trickled into the back of the net uncontested.

Post the break, Arindam had another moment of madness when he raced out of his penalty area to meet Ogbeche. Post that, he chested the ball into the Nigerian’s path and then also had another shoddy attempt at handling it.

Unsurprisingly, Ogbeche dribbled the ball away from Arindam before squaring the it for Bipin, who slotted the ball calmly into the back of the net.

Back in March, 2020, there was a consensus that Arindam had single-handedly driven ATK across the line, courtesy his stellar display. On that count at least, it seems a shade ironic that he was the decisive tilting scale again, although one reckons, he might not cherish this display as much.

Bipin Singh fittingly caps off Mumbai City FC’s ambitious project

ISL 202021 Mumbai City FC prevail in an errorstrewn final Hugo Boumous fails to shine while Bipin Singh does

Bipin Singh was involved in most of the Mumbai City FC attacks against ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL final. Sportzpics/ISL

In the off-season, Mumbai City FC splashed the cash vigorously and brought the likes of Boumous, Fall, Jahouh, le Fondre, Ogbeche and of course, Sergio Lobera on board. Even at that juncture, there was a sense of inevitability around the Islanders finishing in the higher echelons of the ISL.

The question remained if Mumbai City FC had enough tactical nous and wherewithal to finish the campaign on a high. To be fair, through the season, there were instances when the Islanders looked patchy and seemed lethargic. However, just when push came to shove, Mumbai City FC sparked into life, with most of their star players standing up to be counted.

Prior to the competition, one would’ve been tempted to label one of Boumous, Jahouh, le Fondre or Ogbeche as the Islanders’ MVP. Yet, rather refreshingly, it was Bipin – an unheralded star who grabbed the tournament by the scruff of its neck and ultimately, quenched Mumbai City FC’s thirst for an ISL crown.

For the entirety of the season, Bipin was brilliant. His directness and pace caused opposition defenders plethora of problems and those aspects came to the fore on Saturday too.

Against ATK Mohun Bagan, Bipin was a bundle of energy and was particularly impressive with his positioning. At times, he stretched the play by hugging the touchline, whereas on other occasions, he drifted infield to provide support to Boumous, le Fondre and Ogbeche.

In fact, the Indian winger was influential in every penetrative attacking move the Islanders stitched together.

During the first half, Bipin conjured two moments of supreme quality. Just after the 10-minute mark, he ghosted into the box and had it not been for a shove by Kotal, he could well have rippled the net. A few minutes later, he nearly got on the end of a devilish cross from le Fondre – a chance he created courtesy his magnificent movement.

In the 58th minute, Bipin played through an exceptional through ball that released Boumous. The Frenchman then fashioned himself a scoring opportunity and even though the latter couldn’t make the net bulge, it highlighted the impact Bipin had had on the encounter.

Finally, in the 90th minute, the Indian was rewarded for his perseverance when he latched onto Ogbeche’s pass and leathered the ball past the retreating ATK Mohun Bagan defenders.

Throughout the season, the Islanders have almost always found someone to drag them out of holes, incessantly emphasising that they are a champion team, rather than a team of champions. To that end, no one has been as consistent as Bipin, who owing to his remarkable performances, might have even propelled himself into the national team landscape.

And, for a side that splurged an astronomical amount of money, yet concentrated on the collective, it is fitting that Bipin applied the finishing touches on an ambitious project.

Maybe, just maybe, there are fairytales in football.

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