After three halves of football without a shot on target, Mumbai City finally managed to test the opposition goalkeeper in the second half of their second match of the season and registered their first win in Goa on Wednesday.
Sergio Lobera's team took on the manager's former club FC Goa with the hopes of showcasing what they have learnt from the Spanish coach in the short pre-season sessions that they have had. Lobera's teams require time to settle in and it was evident once again at the Fatorda Stadium.
In terms of lineups, there were talking points in both camps - Lobera's experiment of fielding Adam Le Fondre on the right flank and Bartholomew Ogbeche through the centre hadn't worked against NorthEast United so he dropped the former Kerala Blasters striker to the bench.
Le Fondre was on his own upfront but his impact wasn't felt until the end of the second half as FC Goa did a commendable job of restricting the Islanders to passing sideways and forced them to huff and puff out of frustration.
There was also the absence of Ahmed Jahouh that Mumbai had to deal with - how did they deal with that? Well, they didn't. Jahouh's importance to Lobera's setup was once again stressed by the lack of connection between the defence and attack throughout the game.
Without the Moroccan midfielder turning up in space to receive the ball and ping it forward, the team struggled to threaten despite having a numerical advantage on the field. It also didn't help that the man tasked with creating chances in the final third - Hugo Boumous - looked completely out of form and rhythm.
Goa were the better team in the first half but they have themselves to blame for the loss. A terrible high-footed challenge by Redeem Tlang on Hernan Santana five minutes before the break was an invitation letter to Le Fondre and co. into their goal. Juan Ferrando mocked the quality of refereeing in Indian football after the game - in reality, Tlang will be lucky to escape a multi-game suspension due to the nature of the challenge.
Mumbai City's performance in the second half was also not convincing as they struggled to make use of the advantage. In their own half, Mourtada Fall was struggling and looked out of touch on his debut (he has only recently joined the training sessions) and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh tremendous saves to deny Edu Bedia twice in the second-half kept Mumbai City in with a chance.
28 - Despite having the least amount of touches (28) for a player who started the match between @FCGoaOfficial and @MumbaiCityFC, @IndSuperLeague debutante @A1F1E9 still managed to record maximum number of shots in the game (5). Genius. #HeroISL #LetsFootball #FCGMCFC pic.twitter.com/01moZccXsM— OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) November 25, 2020
As the game neared the full-time whistle, Adam Le Fondre's quality came to the fore. His drilled low cross into the box only needed a tap-in from close-range but Mandar Rao Dessai kneed the ball into the stands. The former Reading striker caused a lot of problems for a tired Goa defence and in added time, a Lenny Rodrigues handball allowed the English striker to efficiently dispatch the penalty and secure three points. Much of the credit for that should go for Cy Goddard who had an impressive game down the right wing. It was his cross that Bipin Singh headed on to Lenny's hand.
The result could and should have been attained more easily but knowing the pre-season struggled and how other teams have also taken time to settle in, Lobera will be glad to get a win on the table.
Ferrando, on the other hand, will be hoping to see Brandon Fernandes fully fit and ready to start games. Even without their star midfielder and with 10 men, the Gaurs were able to create chances and that is a positive sign.