Scoring goals was Mumbai City FC’s Achilles heel last season and their opener against Jamshedpur FC at home bore an air of familiarity, losing 0-2.
While much of 2017 was spent trying to fill the void left by Sunil Chhetri, a long season is in store for Jorge Costa’s side, who only impressed in patches. Just before this encounter, Mumbai gave a good account of themselves in the pre-season at Thailand, netting as many as 14 times in four games.
Before a ball was kicked in the game, it was Mumbai who held a slight edge. Jamshedpur, after all, were missing three of their main men in defender Dhanachandra Singh, first choice goalkeeper Subrata Paul, and marquee player Tim Cahill.
But the away side was quick to get off the blocks and Mumbai found themselves chasing the game after the classy Mario Arques put his side ahead. “The players were not confident with the ball which is normal for the first game,” Costa lamented in the post-match press conference.
There were very few attacking patterns that were seen from the home side, who were bereft of ideas in midfield. Jamshedpur, on the other hand, knew exactly what do when they pinched the ball from their opponents.
Jerry Mawihmingthanga was a livewire on the right with his pace. With Arques making clever runs behind the defense, Emerson and Carlos Calvo were seen supporting the attackers.
Mumbai’s midfield, which looked better on paper, were slow and the link-up play with their attackers were uninspiring. The energetic Bipin Singh, who delivered the most number of crosses last season, also had a poor outing. Portuguese newcomer Paulo Machado, also struggled to stamp his authority.
Lack of finishing
“The players played a very good second half and had many chances to score a goal, a lot,” opined Costa.
The Mumbai outfit did put up a much better display in the second half. It was exactly at the hour mark that the momentum slowly started to shift. The men in blue shirts steadily applied pressure on Tiri and Raju Gaikwad.
But, they were denied by a rock-solid Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, who was nearly impregnable between the sticks. A mis-kick from Gaikwad had sent Mumbai striker Moudou Sougou through on goal but hit straight at the keeper from a one-on-one situation.
On the other side of the break, the Senegalese had another opportunity from a similar situation, but, yet again, failed to get his scoring boots on. It was a passage in play that Mumbai should have capitalised on. As the evening progressed, a fatigued Jamshedpur side retreated at will, giving the likes of Mohammad Rafique, Sougou, and Rafael Bastos time and space on the ball.
While Jamshedpur skipper Tiri was once again his no-nonsense self, marshalling the backline with alacrity, defensive partner Gaikwad had a shocker. His aforementioned poor clearance nearly gifted Mumbai an equaliser against the run of play in the first half.
In a strange turn of events, the only times Mumbai found the net in the game, they were ruled out for off-side.
“We had two very good one-on-one chances which were stopped by their goalkeeper,” Costa added. “The most difficult is not to score, it is to arrive there. Then, it is the luck, it is the quality, it is a lot of things. Also, we are not playing alone. Their goalkeeper made some very good saves.”
There was a lot of talk about the style of play that the Spanish coaches will be implementing before the start of the season. Jamshedpur coach Cesar Ferrando had earlier stated that he just expects his team to win, irrespective of the methods they adopt to get there.
“Mumbai pushed us a lot in the second half so we had to draw back and defend at that time,” Ferrando said. “I am very happy with my goalkeeper’s performance.”
With a bit of fortune and composure in front of goal, Mumbai might have had all three points in the bag. They are now left licking their wounds as some of the familiar bad habits from last season came back to haunt them in front of their home fans.