Mumbai City FC coach Sergio Lobera admitted before the start of the season that the squad would have to quickly imbibe his brand of attacking football, and do so while also winning matches. They did the first bit alright, but not quite the other.
An equally new-look NorthEast Untied FC (NEUFC), helmed by Gerard Nus, who at 35 is the youngest coach ever in ISL, beat star-studded but 10-man Mumbai City 1-0 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa, on Saturday.
Two key refereeing calls on either side of half-time defined the outcome. The first was a straight red card—the first of ISL 7—to Mumbai City’s standout player of the opening half, Ahmed Jahouh. The Moroccan was sent off by referee R Venkatesh after a needless tackle from behind on the right ankle of NEUFC’s Khassa Camara in the 43rd minute.
As Mumbai struggled to cope with the loss of their creative fulcrum, NEUFC realised they had a chance. Buoyed by the numeric advantage and the fact their defence was holding firm, NEUFC knew an opening was all they needed. They got it four minutes into the second half courtesy a handball.
Australian Dylan Fox met a cross from the left with a dipping header aimed towards the centre of the box. The ball brushed the left hand of Mumbai City’s Rowllin Borges and Venkatesh awarded the penalty. Ghana’s Kwesi Appiah calmly placed it to the left of goalkeeper Amrinder Singh to give NEUFC the initiative against the run of play.
That was enough to land a body blow on Mumbai City, who were making all the moves up until then—they had more than double the passes (306 to NEUFC’s 127) and almost twice the possession (65% to NEUFC’s 35) in the first half. But if Mumbai City, for all the top names on the roster, couldn’t land a shot on goal it was also because under pressure NEUFC managed to keep their shape.
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