ATK have been among the most unfortunate teams in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season. Kalu Uche suffered an injury and after a series of negotiations, the club roped in Emiliano Alfaro from FC Pune City. In fact, the club management weren’t sure that the deal would go through and hence they also had Eli Babalj as a back-up. Little did they know that the Uruguayan striker would pick an injury in the very first training session which would mean that they had to sign Babalj now.
Coach Steve Coppell knew that Mumbai City FC are a difficult side to break down given that they didn’t leak in a single goal for over 270 minutes. He asked his team not to commit numbers forward fearing that Mumbai would utilize the pace of Arnold Issoko on the flanks to hit his side on the counter.
The only time ATK looked dangerous was when Everton Santos ran straight at the veteran Anwar Ali, who made is first start this season. The former India international was slow and committed at least half a dozen fouls and was lucky not to be booked.
Manuel Lanzarote, who had at least six-to-eight free-kicks, was wasteful and never really threatened the Mumbai defenders.
Meanwhile, Mumbai City too looked listless in attack. Modou Sougou, who has made a name for himself in the league for the sheer number of times he has been found in an offside position, looked off colour while Ricky Lallawmawma kept a close eye on Isokko. Rafael Bastos was wasteful in possession and a couple of occasions when he opted to shoot, his effort was scuffed at best.
It was a game littered with fouls, throw-ins and its stop-start nature never really helped either team. Jorge Costa would be pleased that they didn’t concede but his promise of entertaining the fans was thrown out of the window on Saturday.
On the other hand, Coppell was genuinely happy with the result as they continue their unbeaten run on the road. Also they haven’t leaked in a goal in their last two games. Also a few more training sessions would allow Babalj to get accustomed to the team which would see them field a number nine as opposed to deploying Lanzarote upfront.
It was a dour game with neither team too concerned about picking three points. ‘Play safe’ was the mantra for the evening.