Seeking an incredible turnaround after a demoralising 5-1 defeat at home in the Indian Super League semi-final, Rafael Bastos had given Mumbai City the early lead at Fatorda Stadium after being set up by Arnold Issoko, six minutes into the match.
The same had happened in the first leg at Mumbai but the script turned out totally different at the end of the full-time whistle but Mourdata Fall’s brace turned the match on its head.
The Senegalese defender didn’t find the net in the return leg but was the sole shining light for the Gaurs despite the Islanders securing a narrow 1-0 victory on Tuesday.
Goa, a side known to be good on the ball were sloppy in possession early on and the visitors took advantage of it with a lead at half-time. Mumbai upped the ante after the break, attacking with all their might but a resolute defensive display saved the blushes for the hosts.
Fall, the hero of the match, had shattered Mumbai’s hopes of the final with a brace of powerful headers in the first leg and the big man was at it again despite being involved in a losing cause.
Along with keeping Mumbai danger-man Moudou Sougou in check, he sniffed out any threat on Goa’s goal whenever Mumbai came close to extending their lead. With 12 clearances, 3 interceptions and two shots at goal - the Senegalese put in a great shift at the back.
Ably supported by the effervescent Carlos Pena, Fall has been nothing short of a revelation for the Gaurs. Naveen Kumar, who sealed his spot between the sticks over the talented Mohammed Nawaz, also chipped in with a series of fine saves.
Despite little to gain from the second leg, a sturdy defensive showing will definitely help FC Goa’s confidence heading into the finals against Bengaluru FC.
Mumbai cap off an incredible season
The loss notwithstanding, this has been a season to remember for Mumbai City ever since Jorge Costa took over the reins at the start of the year.
They strung a nine-match unbeaten run after a 5-0 away drubbing at Goa and looked primed to top the league standings but a late slump meant they finished third. Lethal on the counter attack and firm at the back, the Islanders were also the first side to snap up Bengaluru’s unbeaten run this season.
“We started the team with a small budget. We don’t have the budget that other teams had. New coach and new foreigners. In the beginning, it was difficult to understand this reality. We beat some records - we went nine games without a loss which is a record for the club. I am sad because I wanted to play the final at home. We made mistakes, but we played against a top team. But FC Goa also respected us. They made only one change. They respected the competition,” said Mumbai City boss Costa who seemed satisfied after an optimistic season.