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Milan Singh of Kerala Blasters FC and Achille Emana Edzimbi of Mumbai City FC in action during match 48 of the Hero Indian Super League between Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC held at the Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai India on the 14th January 2018 Photo by: Vipin Pawar / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Indian Football

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City 0-1 Kerala Blasters

Vatsal Dani discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Mumbai City 0-1 Kerala Blasters

Iain Hume’s controversial winner at the Mumbai Football Arena revived Kerala Blasters’ ISL campaign as they edged past Mumbai City with a 0-1 win. This was Blasters’ second successive away win and has brought David James’ boys right into the race for top 4 by drawing level on points with the day’s opponents.

On the other hand, the Mumbaikars with this defeat have drifted further away from the leading pack. Here are the three talking points from today’s drab encounter from Andheri.

Mumbai’s Lethargy Sinks Them

Mumbai City’s combination of Emana and Gerson in the heart of midfield lack the spunk and drive to intimidate opposition. Guimaraes’ idea to pair two of the most gifted players in the centre of the field seems tantalizing on paper. One is a strong ball winner while other is terrific with his ball retention. Despite all this, the duo today failed to make any impact whatsoever. And it is clearly down to their lack of pace. Gerson and Emana, both are without any doubt quality players for Mumbai but both of them need legs around them to succeed. Emana has the drive and superb ball retention abilities but at the age of 35 he surely isn’t one of the quickest. The Cameroonian is a powerhouse and pace has seldom been his area of strength. When he was played in the advanced midfield role, he had the pace of Everton Santos and Balwant to feed on as opposed to Gerson.

The lack of pace in midfield hurt Mumbaikars in two key areas – closing down the opposition and to launch attacks. Throughout the game, Blasters’ midfield had comfortable run at the hosts in the middle especially in the second half. The home team shaded the Yellow Submarines as far as possession was concerned, but it was the visitors who had better penetration. Kerala always had the luxury of time to regroup themselves whenever Mumbai had the ball and looked to mount an attack. This is the precise reason why Mumbai rank atop the rankings for most fouls conceded and second behind their today’s opponents, Kerala Blasters, in number of saves made. If Guimaraes intends to play a 4-4-1-1 with Emana and Gerson as his midfield duo then he needs to have a grafter with legs to run in the hole behind Balwant. It was this sluggishness which led to a cruel defeat on the night and can hamper their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.

James’ Kerala take shape

David James has made instant impact in his second stint with the sinking submarines. The Southerners look a classic English club side. This Blasters side play like tanks on the battlefield, simply steamrolling their opponents with their sheer power and physicality. The boys in yellow are not shy to dive into a tackle. Speaking of tackles, the Kochi team loves to tackle, and tackle hard. Iain Hume made himself a nuisance in Mumbai’s defensive half with his physicality. He riled up Mumbai’s defensive general and captain, Goian to such an extent that the Brazilian could barely settle in. Milan Singh and Jackichand always kept Mumbai’s midfield in check with their tenacity.

A wall like defence led by Wes Brown was perfectly organized and ferociously patrolled Subhasish Roy’s goal. The visitors were superior in the air as compared to the Islanders. The former Liverpool ‘keeper has brought clarity for Blasters who looked bewildered under Rene Meulensteen. This is down to the fact that James is able to play to the strength of his squad which is physically strong and has great aerial presence. A lucky win is just what the two time ISL finalists required to revive their flagging season. With 2 wins and a draw in his last three games, the Blasters’ return to form has added spice to the race for the semi-final spots.

Sloppiness in Final Third Haunts Mumbai

The difference between good sides and great sides lies in their ability to create clear-cut chances with precision and finesse. Finesse has never been Maharashtra side’s forte but they have been clinical under Alexandre Guimaraes. This season, Mumbai have been very inconsistent as far as precision is considered.

The Blues had statistically battered their opponents today if not for their wastefulness and lack of luck they could’ve easily swatted Blasters aside. Of 22 crosses attempted by the home team, they hardly had any which bothered Wes Brown and Co. The magical troika of Everton Santos, Thiago Santos and Achille Emana could barely string penetrative passes to test their opponents, let alone slice them open. Mumbai shifted gears in the second half but just lacked the cutting edge in the final third to harm Blasters. The home side were like amateur brawlers in the final third. The lack of sharpness is deeply blunting their attack. If the Citizens wish to grab a hold of the trophy this season, then they need to revive last season’s precision and sharpness in the attacking third.

(Featured image via ISL)

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Vatsal Dani

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