Most FC Goa fans must have thought Mandar Rao Dessai to be their weak link for Saturday's match given the make-shift defender would be exposed against the raw pace of Arnold Issoko, whose exploits on the right wing has been instrumental in Mumbai City's success.
The first 20 minutes of the match was on these expected lines as Arnold set up the first goal of the match by running past Mandar. But that was the end of his reign as the Goan lad made a few changes to keep the foreigner quiet for the rest of the evening.
"Arnold has superb pace with the ball and he beat me twice in the early stage and one of those resulted in the goal," Mandar was frank in his assessment while talking to Goal after the match.
"But then the coach told me to make sure that he receives the ball well in front of me, so that he can't run into my blind side. That worked wonders," told the player when asked to elaborate on the little details that changed the game.
As a professional, Mandar had experienced the nadir of a footballing career while being relegated with Dempo in 2015 and had also come to touching distance of a title while losing to Bengaluru FC in the Federation Cup final. He did win the Federation Cup in 2016, however.
Next Sunday in the ISL final, he will have a chance to claim his second major silverware apart from the second division I- League.
"First we need to focus on the second leg but then yes, the final will be a special occasion if it happens. I had been through those two very different situations and with this team, it would be great to win the first league title."
As for Mourtada Fall, Saturday was one of those first times. Into his 13th season of senior football, the central defender scored his first brace. "It was my first time, yes," the towering figure blushes a little before starting to delve deeper. "But despite what the scoreline says, it was not an easy match. Mumbai are a very good team and they fought well. The second leg will not be a cakewalk."
The overcautious tone of the Senegalese defender underscores the tenet the team's success is based on. "We are a team who love to score goals and maybe that's why we have been able to score 12 goals against a team like Mumbai in three matches. The philosophy is simple: to keep the ball as much as possible without panicking. That is what keeps us going."
"You don't get lucky against Goa," he smirked and left.