ISL 2020-21, Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa: Amrinder's heroics, Ferrando's tactical changes and other talking points
Mumbai City are the league shield winners this season but over the course of two legs in semi-final, Goa were the better team.
Glan Martins and Rowllin Borges come from Goa. Both started their careers with Sporting Clube de Goa. Both midfielders are tough tacklers and their work rate on the pitch can be a huge positive for their teams.
On Monday, Martins, who joined FC Goa in February on a short-term deal from ATK Mohun Bagan, prepared to take the 17th penalty in the shootout against Mumbai. He sent the goalkeeper the wrong side but failed to put the ball inside the goal.
Borges, an Indian international who has been playing for Mumbai City FC since 2019, stepped up to take the 18th penalty in the shootout. He also sent the goalkeeper the wrong way but unlike Martins, managed to slot the ball inside the net.
Sergio Lobera's Mumbai City FC won the second-leg of the semi-final thanks to Borges' decisive kick. They won the shootout 6-5 after none of the players could find the target in 120 minutes of football.
Borges, his teammates, head coach, support staff, owners and fans celebrated Mumbai's entry into the ISL final for the first time in their history.
Martins, his teammates, head coach Juan Ferrando, owners and fans were left heartbroken. A few were reduced to tears.
Mumbai City are the league shield winners this season but over the course of two legs in the semi-final, Goa were the better team. They took the lead twice in the first-leg, but conceded twice. They had six shots on target on Monday to Mumbai's zero. They enjoyed more possession and most of their players were much better than their opponents. It's a pity but that's football, part of the game.
To Mumbai's credit, they had Amrinder Singh guarding the goal. He didn't feature in the shootout but he made a huge difference in the match. A team can have 10 players underperforming on a night but it can still taste victory because of the efforts of one. That's also football. That's also the part of the game.
— Mumbai City FC (@MumbaiCityFC) March 8, 2021
Going into the match, FC Goa were handed a massive boost with the availability of mid-fielder Alberto Noguera and defender Ivan Gonzalez and both made it the starting XI. The surprising bit was Ferrando opting to bench striker Igor Angulo with Jorge Ortiz playing as the attacker upfront. It was a 4-3-3 formation with Ortiz being the false nine.
For Mumbai, Bart Ogbeche did not start the game so Adam Le Fondre was leading the forward line. After serving his suspension, Amey Ranawade was back in the XI in his familiar right back role. Mandar Rao Dessai was on the bench and so was Mehtab Singh. Hernan Santana was partnering Mourtada Fall at the heart of the defence and Borges was fit again to start.
As the match progressed in the first-half, it appeared that the changes were working for Mumbai. Unlike in the previous game, when Mandar had to fill in as right back which didn't really work out for Mumbai, Ranawade was doing a solid job in his position. Ortiz and Saviour Gama combined really well in the first-leg and caused a lot of headaches to Mumbai. In this match though, Gama and Redeem Tlang couldn't make the same kind of impact from the left side. The presence of Ranawade only made the job tougher.
Goa got their first real chance in front of the goal in the 26th minute. Ortiz superbly controlled a long ball to find Alexander Romario behind him and the midfielder passed it to Noguera whose shot from inside the box was saved by Amrinder. But the ball fell in the way of Tlang who tried a sliding left footer from close range only for Ranawade to be at the right spot to block the hit.
Goa started slowly but made significant improvement while Mumbai couldn't conjure a decent attacking move to threaten Goa goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh. After the break, Ferrando introduced Ishan Pandita as a proper nine and changed the system to 4-2-3-1. Pandita's movement was impressive and with Ortiz behind him, Goa were looking like the team which will break the deadlock first. Pandita was preferred over Angulo because Ferrando thought the Spanish forward will give his team an extra edge if the match goes to extra time. Angulo entered the field in the extra time and Ferrando changed the formation to 4-4-2. Again, Goa were a superior side but just couldn't find the back of the net.
Amrinder and Adil shine
Mumbai City FC might have the best attack in the league this season but on Monday, when their attackers failed to live up to the expectations, it was their goalkeeper who once again came to their rescue. Amrinder has been the best goalkeeper this season and his form has been vital for Mumbai as they went on to become league champions as well as qualify for the final. He played all the matches for Mumbai, kept 10 clean sheets and his save percentage is close to 75 percent.
Goa's all six shots on target were saved by Amrinder. His performance, especially after the half-time break was outstanding. In the 47th minute, Gama's pass found Romario who was in the middle of the box with plenty of space around him. His first time shot from left foot was on target but Amrinder's touch was enough for the ball to hit the post before going out. Minutes later, Saviour tried a longer-ranger similar to his goal in the first-leg but this time there was no beating the goalkeeper. Ishan Pandita got a golden opportunity to give the lead to Goa but his diving low header was saved by Amrinder.
Another good chance came in the way of Goa deep into the extra time when Santana headed the ball towards the direction of Amrinder but it fell short. Pandita latched onto it but before he could take a touch or execute his shot, Amrinder showed great awareness as he came out of his line and cleared the danger. Even when it came to set-pieces, where Mumbai are usually very effective, Amrinder's positioning and his aerial prowess proved too good for Goa.
Therefore, after such a commanding display, it was surprising to see that Mumbai opted to replace him with Phurba Lachenpa for penalties. Both teams substituted their goalkeepers with Naveen Kumar coming in for Dheeraj. It appeared as if Goa discussed this plan before the match but Amrinder's reaction showed that Mumbai did not discuss their choice of goalkeeper for penalties, or at least the plan was not shared with Amrinder. He didn't hide his disappointment but in the end, it didn't cost Mumbai, in fact Lachenpa saved the very first penalty kick from Edu Bedia. After the match, Lobera told the decision to remove Amrinder after the extra time was taken by the goalkeeper coach and he was obliged to thank him.
Ivan Gonzalez was named hero of the match but Adil Khan also had a tremendous game. Five tackles, six clearances, two successful interceptions and two shots blocked. Adil couldn't find the game time in Hyderabad FC so he made a loan switch to Goa in the January window. Like Martins, Adil proved to be a crucial signing for Goa and his outing with the club will give him much-needed confidence as heads to the national team camp for the upcoming friendlies.
Below-par penalties and below-par Mumbai
Penalties delivered on the excitement quotient but can't say the same about the quality of the shootout. Bedia, Brandon Fernandes, Santana, Hugo Boumous, James Donachie and Ahmed Jahouh missed their chances. Although when it moved to sudden death, all players converted their chances except for Martins.
Under huge pressure, both Lachenpa and Naveen Kumar did well. It will be interesting to see if Mumbai face similar situation in the final, whether the management decide to stick with Lachenpa or keep faith in Amrinder. But Lobera wouldn't be too bothered about this, he'll be more concerned about how his team's performance dipped after an all-important win against ATK Mohun Bagan to qualify for AFC Champions League.
Lobera accepted that it was a difficult tie against Goa and they did not create many chances. Now that the team made it to their first final, the head coach would want one last push from his boys for the title.
FC Goa became the first Indian team to earn a point in the AFC Champions League after their goal-less draw against Qatar’s Al Rayyan.
FC Goa were one of the most impressive sides in the recently-concluded ISL but the AFC Champions League where the Asian elites play is sure to pose tougher challenges.
Brandon, 26, has been with FC Goa since being selected by the Gaurs in the 2017 ISL draft, a media release issued said.