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Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City FC 2-1 FC Goa

Vatsal Dani discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Mumbai City FC 2-1 FC Goa

Mumbai City FC open their account in the fourth edition of Hero ISL with a thrilling 2-1 win over FC Goa. A cagey first half where both the sides snatched at chances lead to an enterprising second half. Everton Santos opened the scoring for the hosts at the hour mark by forcing an error from Laxmikant Kattimani but the visitors struck back with a scintillating strike from Manuel Arana. Gaurs fightback was shortlived as Islanders snatched a win late into the game with Thiago Santos’ brilliance. City may not have reached their defensive levels of last season but they’re still hard to beat in Mumbai Football Arena. The win not only opens their account for the campaign but also brings them right into the mix with the big boys. Here are the three talking points from Mumbai Football Arena.

Vintage Mumbai steals the show

Resilient in defense, astute in midfield and opportunistic in attack. These are the hallmarks of Alexandre Guimaraes’ side and it was a quintessential performance in their own backyard. Mumbai City lacked a plan B in their opening game in Bengaluru but today they were better prepared for the Goan test. Goian and Rozario tightened the nozzle on a high flying Goan attack for most of the game. Mumbaikars are known to be a defensive side but today it was their attack which stunned their western neighbours. Indian international Balwant Singh has given Mumbai’s attack a new dimension. Emana and Everton Santos with their industry and creativity gave Goa’s fragile defence problems a plenty. The latter was voted Hero of the Match but it was Emana’s nous which made hosts lethal in the final third.

Balwant was little rusty on his return but is primed to fill extra-large shoes of Diego Forlan. The visitors had upper hand in the midfield battle for most of the first half. Zakeer’s introduction in second half turned the tide for the hosts. The former Chennayin man was the perfect anchor man for Citizens’ counterattacking style. The team still seems like a work in progress due to their lack of rhythm and communication in the final third.

Gaurs’ Defensive Woes

FC Goa are arguably one of the best sides going forward but they’re extremely fragile in defense. Sergio Lobera’s possession based setup is vulnerable to counter-attacks, which is forte of his opposite number in the hosts dugout. The visitors looked uncomfortable with Mumbai City’s tactical pressing which eventually led to the game’s opening goal. Goans being caught in possession was a direct byproduct of this tactical pressure. Laxmikant Kattimani epitomized everything that was wrong with Goa’s defense.

Goa’s captain was sloppy with with his distribution and callous with his positioning. Captains are supposed to lead from front but this isn’t what Goa expects from the veteran keeper. Usually reliable between the sticks, it has been a poor start to the campaign for the Kerala stopper. He was shaky against Chennayin in the season opener and was equally off the mark in Mumbai. For the first goal, he was caught napping in possession by Everton Santos while it was poor shot-stopping as Thiago Santos’ winner went through his legs. Goa’s style of playing out from the back requires astute positional sense and players comfortable on ball. At the moment, Lobera’s squad are sorely missing these qualities in defense.

Mumbai’s Attacking Promise

Mumbai’s excellent campaign last season was built on defensive bedrock led by Goian. The Islanders were a mediocre side whilst going forward. 16 goals in 14 games is hardly a stat for a table topping side, but that’s how Mumbai stunned their opponents in the league. The attacking troika of Everton Santos, Balwant and Emana looks very promising especially on the break. Emana was the clear leader of the attack with his creativity and industry. The former Toulouse man was omnipresent on the pitch. Balwant lacked sharpness on his comeback but nonetheless was impressive with his ball retention and movement upfront. And Everton Santos was simply brilliant tonight with his vision and graft.

Attack is the best form of defense but Guimaraes’ boys are personifying the age old adage. Mumbai’s defense begins with their forwards who relentlessly pressurize their defensive counterparts. It was their attacking failure which led to their playoffs defeat against Atletico de Kolkata. Mumbaikars are now extremely lethal on the break, thanks to the injection of pace and power in the attack which was evident in Thiago Santos’ 88th minute winner. Tonight’s winner also proves us that as much as Alexandre Guimaraes loves his defense he is slowly starting to ramp up a cavalry of forwards capable of finishing the job when required. The only drawback of this attack is their lack of cohesion and understanding in the final third. The Costa Rican will hope that his forwards will develop an understanding as the season progresses. With an attack who likes to work hard with flair, things only look more spicy for Ranbir Kapoor’s men in blue.

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Vatsal Dani

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