The Red Machines of Goa need to get their stuttering act together or risk being cleansed away by a resolute and pliable Mumbaikars, who are also looking for their first win.Week three of the I-League’s 2013-14 season sees Churchill Brothers face Mumbai FC in Goa. While on paper it seems just to be another champions versus challengers face off, it’s anything but so. The Red Machines haven't been in top form, while the Mumbaikars have resolutely fended off defeats in successive draws, without the presence of their full contingent of foreign recruits. So with either team wanting to make a point, it’s but natural that expectations in a tie of this magnitude will reach epic proportions.
Mariano Dias’ Churchill has been beribboned with a lack of creativity so far. They’re first league encounter ended up with a loss to Salgaocar FC, while they drew a goalless match, albeit a drab one, with Mohun Bagan.
Their league position reflects the problems faced by Dias as so far, with them having garnered just one point from their opening two matches, a worrisome stat, especially for defending champions already five points adrift of the league toppers United SC.
Dias, aware of his team’s shortcomings, acknowledged that their problems were being solved systematically and in time for them to mount a serious challenge to protect their I-League crown per se.
“In fact, we should have done that (make our home advantage count). Our first match (against Salgaocar FC) was our derby match. There also we could have had our share. If the match had ended in a draw we could have had a point. But still, nothing is lost. We still have a chance to come back and we have a long way to go.”The good news for the Goan side is that Henri Antchouet is back to full fitness and is expected to start. However Hugo Machado remains a doubtful starter as he is yet to recover from a thigh injury.
What would worry Churchill Brothers management in particular is that they have failed to score in the two matches - a stat which one doesn't usually associate with the club given that they have had a history of being one of the top scoring sides in the country in recent years.
So, while Churchill continues to shuffle their feet for now, Mumbai seem to be taking huge steps in progress und Khalid Jamil.
Week two saw them draw, like they’re previous game, against a shapeless Dempo side, but for a team playing with just two of their major foreigners, the compactness and suppleness in formation has caught their side’s opponents unawares.
Part of the reason for Mumbai’s resilience is the surge in form of Haroon Amiri. The Afghan prodigy has been everywhere for Mumbai, from defence to attack, and his contributions have had their respective telling effects.
Khalid Jamil’s tactics too deserve praise after varying them from a standard 4-4-2 to a radical 3-5-2 depending on the situation Mumbai FC find themselves in. Particularly his models seem tailor-made for Amiri’s accession across the pitch. Sanjay Rane, Dane Perreira and Nicholas Rodrigues too will hope to improve tenfold in the coming weeks.
The biggest bit of news for Mumbai this past week is their addition of Sanjdar Ahmedi, who should be available to face Churchill. His presence does add venom to Mumbai’s already sprouted and now growing fangs. John Coutinho however could miss the action after picking up an ankle injury in the last bout.
Khalid has stressed the importance of bettering their own ambition in ascending the steps of the I-League and his team seem to be on track so far, yet that elusive win is what they crave, like adding cherry to the cake. So, no doubt Mumbai will prime themselves to go for the Red Machines’ jugular.
Churchill have an undisputed record for turning awry things around in spectacular style, yet their turnaround chances seem bleak in the face of an imposing yellow and blue wall formed by Mumbai FC. Yet, matches like this are the stepping stone for success and no doubt both will be raring to go to show the rest of the pack their true colours. Expect a humdinger.
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