For Mumbai City, beating FC Goa was always going to be a tough ask. Up against their merciless nemesis, the chips were already down for the Islanders with a weakened, injury-hit squad.
On Thursday at the Mumbai Football Arena, it was the same old story as last season. FC Goa turned on the heat in style to climb top of the 2019-’20 Indian Super League table, dispatching four goals against a hapless Mumbai City side.
Following their 2-4 loss to Odisha FC in their previous game, coach Jorge Costa had demanded his team to show their true image and promised to offer no excuses no matter what was the outcome of the result against the Gaurs. But they suffered another heavy defeat with the same scoreline as the previous game.
The Islanders were made to pay for recurring individual mistakes, concentration lapses and a lethargic display. However, the scoreline flattered to deceive for FC Goa despite them dominating possession for major part of the game.
Had Mumbai City followed their game plan to the T, it could have been a different result but it wasn’t meant to be. From the four goals that they conceded on the night, three came from set-pieces.
Costa made two changes from the defeat against Odisha FC as Souvik Chakrabarti slotted in for Mohammed Rafique at right-back whereas Serge Kevyn was replaced by winger Bipin Singh with Mohammed Larbi deployed in midfield. On the other hand, the visitors went with an unchanged line-up as Edu Bedia returned to the bench.
For the first quarter, Mumbai took the attack to the opposition. They played with a high defensive line, pressed and stifled FC Goa. Full-backs Mandar Rao Dessai and Seriton Fernandes pushed up high to support the attack at the other end while Hugo Boumous was given a free role.
Although there were no clear-cut chances for both sides, Mumbai City took their foot off the gas and the tempo of the game slowed down. FC Goa began seeing more of the ball and asserted control as the hosts sat back.
Left-back Subhashish Bose was at fault for three goals, two of which were conceded before the break. For the opener, he failed to close down the space on Lenny Rodrigues, who struck a volley after a well-taken corner from Brandon Fernandes.
Bose was later caught napping as he failed to track Seriton Fernandes’ run inside the box, the defender laying it on a platter for Ferran Corominas to score the second goal.
The second half saw the game spring back to life as Mumbai returned with a renewed sense of urgency and determination. They put FC Goa under pressure again by pressing high and were soon rewarded. Defenders Sarthak Golui and Chakrabarti scored in quick succession as Mumbai propelled towards a comeback, courtesy of some complacency shown by the Gaurs.
“When we came back from half time, we lost concentration and motivation. We were maybe thinking that the three points were already in the pocket but it was not the case. It happened against NorthEast (United) and we cannot regularly keep repeating these mistakes,” Boumous told Scroll.in after the match.
However, it didn’t take long for FC Goa to restore their lead and it only happened once the home team mentally switched off again.
Bose failed to contain Fall inside the box, the Senegalese flicking a header towards Boumous, who also got on the scoresheet after being unmarked by center-back Pratik Chaudhari at the near post.
Carlos Pena completed the rout at the death with a tap-in from close range but the goal shouldn’t have come in the first place. Amine Chermiti was ball watching as the Spaniard made a free run towards goal and poked the ball past goalkeeper Amrinder Singh from a set-piece taken by Bedia.
Costa had sensed that Goa would threaten most from set-pieces but revealed his players did not take his instructions seriously.
“Before we conceded the third goal, you could see me shouting at them for the first two. I knew it would happen again,” Costa said after the match.
“I don’t know if it is lack of concentration but all of the eight goals we conceded (from our last two games), with all the respect to our opponents, they were gifted. My players knew what they had to do but they didn’t do. And if they don’t do, I have the option to change them. So if they cannot do it, I will not close my eyes. I am the boss and I need to make decisions. I don’t know why they are not doing the things I want,” he lamented.
Still, in the initial stages of the league, Mumbai City are hoping to have their key injured players back after the end of the international break.
But currently brimming low with confidence, a better understanding with the players and winning their belief seems the need of the hour for a frustrated Costa.