The Spaniard expressed his contentment with the players’ attitude despite the result.

Star-studded Mumbai City FC succumbed to 1-0 defeat to NorthEast United FC in their opening game of the seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL). The Islanders failed to register a single shot on target in the match, as Kwesi Appiah converted a spot-kick to seal the three points for Gerard Nus’ men. Midfielder Ahmed Jahouh was sent off for a rather rash tackle in the 43rd minute and Sergio Lobera believes that moment changed the fate of the game.

“Obviously, today it was a big problem for us because I think this action changed the game. Playing with 10 players and missing an important player like Jahouh is a big problem for us. But, for the next game, I have 28 players and I am very happy with my squad. There are no excuses for the next game by losing only one player,” the head coach said in the post-match press conference.

The tactician started the game with his lethal striker combination of Adam le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche. However, Le Fondre was shunted to the right-flank for the better half of the game. Playing two top forwards simultaneously isn’t a tactic that Sergio Lobera implemented regularly at FC Goa previously. Did shifting away from his original methods and approach cost his side the game?

“Our style of play is not negotiable. We want to play the same way. I used some players in different positions, like today Adam played as a right winger. But, I think he has experience to play in different positions and that helped us a lot,” the 43-year-old responded. “Obviously, we need to improve in our style of play. We need to keep calm in some situations. Today, the attitude was very good of my players, but sometimes we need to think better and make better decisions. But, I am very proud of my players in the second half. I think we played well, with very good attitude and in their half with 10 players. We had our chances to change the result.”

WATCH: Sergio Lobera’s post-match reaction

There is also conjecture that the Islanders were weighed down by expectations of implementing Lobera’s famed, free-flowing style of football. The players did appear to be a bit impatient in the early phases of the game and Jahouh’s mistimed challenge is probably a testament to that. Reflecting on this, the Spaniard said, “Yes, I think we tried to implement a newer style of play. But, it’s not easy. Four players played under me before, but the rest of the players are new. We need to improve in obviously a lot of things, but winning is always important. Today it is not possible, but we need to put all focus in our next game.”

The metropolis club are slated to face FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium on November 26. Lobera has had a memorable history with the Gaurs and there is a developing rivalry between the two teams, as multiple FC Goa players switched allegiances to Mumbai in the summer. These factors promise to ensure that the match between the two sides will be an enticing one. Given the loss against the Highlanders, Mumbai will clearly not head into the game in ideal circumstances. However, Sergio Lobera brushed aside any such notions.

The head coach explained, “I think it’s a completely different game. I think the style of play for NorthEast United and the style of play for FC Goa is very different. It’s impossible to compare the situation. We need to prepare well for the next game, not thinking about the game against NorthEast, only thinking about how the style of play for FC Goa is. We had a short pre-season and we have short time between games. But, it’s my job to improve the level of my team. I am very positive and I think this is possible for the next game.”

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