Jamshedpur FC began their Indian Super League campaign with a 3-2 loss at home to Odisha FC, conceding two late goals in the match. With a 10-day gap between their first two matches this season, for last year’s League Shield winners, head coach Aidy Boothroyd masterminded a 1-1 draw against favourites Mumbai City FC in Mumbai on Saturday to get Jamshedpur’s campaign underway.
Ahead of their match against Mumbai, Boothroyd spoke about the challenges of leading a new team and implementing one’s philosophy on the players quickly. Boothroyd had joined Jamshedpur after former coach Owen Coyle left for Europe.
The manner of their loss to Odisha in the first match bothered Boothroyd with the Englishman also unhappy with the lengthy gap between matches.
“When you get a result as we did in the last match, when you end up getting beat 3-2 in the last minute, it (the long gap) is the worst thing because you want to get up and play straight away. So in the ten-day layoff, we licked our wounds and then we used it purposefully. We did a couple of extra sessions that we may not have done before and worked on certain aspects,” he said in the pre-match press conference.
The extra days seem to have helped Boothroyd get his players to imbibe his philosophy as they defended resolutely against the attacking riches of Mumbai to come away with a point.
A lot of attention ahead of the match was on Greg Stewart, the ISL player of the year last season, when he donned the Jamshedpur colours. This year the Scotsman is playing for Mumbai City. The 32-year-old started brightly and set up Lallianzuala Chhangte to score on his 100th ISL match as the home side took the lead in the eighth minute. However, the lead barely lasted five minutes as Daniel Chima Chukwu levelled the scores heading the ball home off a long throw in the 12th minute.
Though Mumbai dominated possession, the chances were few and far between them as the Eli Sabia-led Jamshedpur defence kept the likes of Stewart, Chhangte and Bipin Singh at bay. After creating Mumbai’s goal, Stewart in particular found life difficult with Germanpreet Singh and Wellington Priori taking turns to man-mark the Scot out of the game. As the match went on, Stewart had to drop deeper to get on the ball.
Though Boothroyd had stated that his side would not be focusing solely on Stewart, the Englishman was nonetheless pleased with how the former Jamshedpur player’s influence was reduced as the match progressed.
“They (MCFC) do have a lot of good players but we certainly made it frustrating for every single one of them out there and I will give a great compliment to how my players defended while keeping a man on him (Stewart) constantly and quiet him down throughout the game as we know how difficult he can be for a player to play against. Thankfully, it was not a fairy-tale ending for Stewart but a very professional performance from us,” he said.
At the other end, Harry Sawyer and Chukwu caused trouble for the Mumbai centre back pairing of Rostyn Griffiths and Mehtab Singh. Many a time, it seemed that Mumbai missed the physical presence of club captain Mourtada Fall in defence but coach Des Buckingham defended his team selection stating the need to have the creativity of Ahmed Jahouh and Alberto Noguera in midfield while playing at home.
“We approach games differently. We have the option of having height at the back but then we would have lost either Noguera or Stewart or Diaz upfront maybe even Jahouh. Especially at home, we want to attack teams. We can start and we will start at some points with two foreign centre-backs if we need to but today was about trying to attack and coming away with all three,” he said in the post-match press conference.
Mumbai City increased the pressure in the second half with Buckingham replacing Apuia Ralte with the attack-minded Vikram Pratap Singh. The substitution paid off almost immediately. The forward found himself in a bit of space in the Jamshedpur penalty box and tried an outrageous chip with goalkeeper Rehensh TP off his line. Unfortunately for the home side, the ball came back of the crossbar.
Mumbai cranked up the pressure with Buckingham sending on Jorge Pereyra Díaz, Gurkirat Singh and Rowllin Borges to eke out a winner but Jamshedpur defended well, restricting Mumbai to just six shots on target in the match.
Given the changes in the off season and their disappointing start to the season, Boothroyd was happy with the way his side rose to the challenge against Mumbai but admitted that there is a lot of work to be done before Jamshedpur can start thinking of a title challenge.
“It has been only two games into this season. But, yes definitely we are still a work in progress. We want to play an aggressive and pressing game and want to be a threat on the counters while also being good on the ball while in possession. Everything cannot be done at once and it is dependent on the decision making of the players after the work we do during the week,” he said.
“It is a new dawn for Jamshedpur FC and we want to keep building on the top work that has already been done.”