The two teams will meet again on Monday for the second leg of the playoffs.
Mumbai City FC played out a 2-2 draw in the first-leg of their Indian Super League semifinal first leg encounter against FC Goa on Friday. The Islanders came back from behind twice to restore parity as the Gaurs failed to hold on to their leads. Igor Angulo converted from the spot upfront but Hugo Boumous levelled the scores shortly afterward in the first-half. Later, Saviour Gama struck from outside of the box to put Goa in an advantageous position yet again.
However, Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh combined to put the ball into the back of the net yet again and ensured that Mumbai City took a point against FC Goa. Here are three things that we learned from the game.
3. Unique Mumbai lineup fails to show balance
Sergio Lobera’s team selection, whilst usually consistent, has been quite unpredictable lately. This has largely been down to suspension concerns of multiple players. The Spaniard sacrificed the stable centre-back partnership of Hernan Santana and Mourtada Fall to accommodate attacking midfielder Hugo Boumous in the lineup. This was also done to play the duo of Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche together, with the former operating from the right wing. Santana’s presence allows Mumbai to play out from the back more comfortably.
Maybe, Lobera’s complaint of not asserting enough control over the proceedings in Friday’s game was down to the absence of his Spanish midfielder. Mandar Rao Dessai was slotted in right-back due to Amey Ranawade’s suspension and Mohammed Rakip’s injury. Originally a right-footer, Dessai struggled to get going and often had to pause, turn a bit and then cross from his left foot; which, eventually disrupted the pace and seamlessness of Mumbai’s attacking moves.
The Mumbai City lineup against FC Goa was unusual for Lobera’s men to play their natural gameplay. Maybe, the coach will do well to correct that in the next game by including Santana and Ranawade in the lineup along with deploying two Indian wingers to flank Boumous behind either Le Fondre or Ogbeche. Such a setup will arguably lend more balance to the team as they head into the game.
2. FC Goa was Bruised but not beaten
Not many critics handed FC Goa much of a chance before this game as they were already missing some key players due to suspension and injury issues. Their primary creator Alberto Noguera had picked a red card in the last league game against Hyderabad FC whereas Ivan Gonzalez was nursing an injury.
Seriton Fernandes was substituted out due to fitness concerns in the first-half. However, FC Goa kept on pushing Mumbai City to the edge despite fielding a depleted lineup. They matched the Islanders toe-to-toe on all fronts and were powered by the dynamic presence of winger Jorge Ortiz. Midfielder Glan Martins looked to mark Hugo Boumous to curb his creative influence to an extent.
Equally comfortable with passing the ball around as Mumbai City, FC Goa seemed to be up for the challenge. The Islanders did well to make their way back into the game in their trademark style and made a contest where there was very little to separate between the two teams. With Noguera returning in the upcoming game, the Gaurs will be further strengthened to take on the mounting challenge that the Islanders will put forth in the second leg.
1. Mumbai’s cheat code from set-pieces
Mumbai had gained the upper hand in the proceedings for a short while after Boumous’ terrific strike. However, Saviour Gama picked up the ball in the left flank and sprinted his way conveniently towards Mumbai’s box before depositing the ball into the back of the nets. The Islanders were yet again pegged back, but they came back in their hallmark way. The team won a corner but failed to score straightaway.
Mourtada Fall remained inside the box in the second-phase of that set-piece and waited for a curling lofted delivery from Ahmed Jahouh to head the ball into the goal. This was Fall’s fourth goal of the season and Jahouh’s fifth assist of the ongoing season. The duo had combined to open the scoring the must-win encounter against ATK Mohun Bagan last week as well. The Senegalese centre-back had come close to scoring on two other occasions on Friday night.
The first one was at the brink of half-time, an effort that was bravely thwarted by Dheeraj Singh. The second instance was in the second-half, which was closely tackled by Goa’s defensive line. This highlights that Mumbai will always find a way to score from the dead ball even if their natural gameplay is combated by the opposition. The Islanders’ set-piece threat will have to be consciously fought by Goa in the second leg, especially considering their own dismal record whilst defending in such situations.