On the eve of the first leg of the Indian Super League semi-final against FC Goa, Mumbai City coach Jorge Costa hoped for a “different story and result” after losing both their league games against the Gaurs, 7-0 on aggregate.
But not even an hour had ticked into the contest and the game already seemed done and dusted.
Mumbai suffered their second biggest thrashing of the season, coming from the same opponents as FC Goa mauled them by 5-1 on Saturday.
The hosts started with a clear game plan to press Goa relentlessly and not to allow the visitors any space and time on the ball. They straightaway blunted out Goa’s orchestrator-in-chief Ahmed Jahouh in the centre of the park and tried to expose the gaps left behind by Seriton Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai in defense.
Their winger Arnold Issoko wreaked havoc on the right flank and with Mandar keeping track of him, the left-back struggled to cope up with the pace of the Congolese winger. After being denied by Naveen Kumar early on, Issoko got the better of Mandar once again as he floated in a magical outside-of-the-boot pass, picking up the unmarked Rafael Bastos’ run into the box, who broke the deadlock inside 20 minutes as the home fans erupted in joy.
But the men in orange found their way back. Ferran Corominas tested Amrinder Singh from outside the box and the Mumbai custodian fumbled his save, allowing Jackichand Singh to pounce on the follow up with a tap-in that saw the visitors draw level.
And Goa made the opportunities count thereafter. Two diving headers from centre-back Mourtada Fall via set pieces were sandwiched with a goal from Coro courtesy of some shoddy defending from the home side.
The Islanders, who forged a reputation as one of the stingiest defence in the league, looked a shadow of themselves as Costa bore a helpless look on the touchline with the spot in the final dangling by a thread.
Calls for more goals drew louder from the travelling fans and Mumbai were put to the sword again. Hugo Boumous made way for the weary Jahouh as he kept toying with the Mumbai backline straightaway, exposing vacant gaps. A sublime threaded ball by the Moroccan playmaker split Shovik Chakrabati and Sehnaj Singh in the box and after setting up two goals himself, Brandon Fernandes got on the scoresheet with a composed finish to put the game to bed in the 82nd minute.
Costa has already downplayed the chances of his side to conjure up any ‘miracle’ when they travel to the Fatorda Stadium. But with the ball in Goa’s court, the second leg could serve as an important dress rehearsal for the final to be held in Mumbai next Sunday.
“In the second half we made a lot of mistakes. And when you play against a team like Goa, with the quality they have, collective and individual, you cannot do nothing more than lose after such mistake. I think this is a very heavy result.
“Our dream is finished tonight. I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe we have the potential to change the result. We must go there to give our respect to the club, be professional and give our best in the second leg. Congratulations to Goa and I wish them all the best for the final,” the Portuguese tactician rued in the post-match press conference.