As FC Goa prepare to face Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League semi-final first leg on Thursday, history is both irrelevant and significant at the same time.
The Gaurs have had the number of the Islanders in recent times, winning five out of the last eight matches between the two teams. Even in the overall head-to-head, the Gaurs hold an upper hand winning seven matches to Mumbai’s five.
FC Goa has inflicted Mumbai City’s heaviest-ever defeat when thrashed them 7-0 in the 2015 season. In the 2018-’19 season, the Gaurs got the better of the Islanders in three out of the four meetings and the aggregate score of their games was 12-3 in Goa’s favour that season.
That included the only previous semi-final meeting between the two sides that Goa won 5-3.
FC Goa vs Mumbai City FC head-to-head
|Mumbai City FC||5||4||7|
However, Goa’s recent domination over Mumbai City will have little to no bearing going into Friday’s semi-final as along with coach Sergio Lobera, six other FC Goa players that featured in the team that dominated Mumbai City FC will line up for the Islanders on Friday.
After the takeover by City Football Group, Mumbai City FC raided FC Goa and pretty much signed the spine of the team that was so successful.
But there is a part of history that may still have an impact on the game. Those six former Goa players and coach Lobera qualified for the semi-finals on every occasion but failed to win the trophy even once and were even beaten in the final by Bengaluru FC in 2018-’19 after extra time.
Thus the players feel they have a lot of unfinished business in Indian football and will be itching to win the trophy albeit in different colours. Mourtada Fall, Mumbai’s centre-back recruited from Goa reiterated this sentiment ahead of the semi-final.
“As players, we always want to reach the final,” Fall said at the pre-match press conference. “So for us, the coach and a few of our teammates there will be added motivation to win because we lost not just last year’s semi-final, but also the final two years ago,” he added.
In a way, Goa’s own past may work against them in the semi-final on Friday. Football, at times, can throw up some really strange situations.
But Goa as a club have a great pedigree in the competition having reached the semi-finals on a record six occasions. Under new coach Juan Ferrando, they’ll be hoping to achieve something that Lobera failed to in his three years at the club.
Even though Goa failed to beat Mumbai in either of the games this season, they come into the game in great form.
The Gaurs are unbeaten in 13 games now – a feat no other side has managed in ISL history. Facing Mumbai will not be an easy task but coach Ferrando hopes his players stick to his philosophy as they aim to go all the way.
“If we enjoy the game, we will have success,” he said.
“Sometimes there is pressure because everybody wants to win but for me, it’s important our players to want to play (our way). I am scared when my team is not playing football (our way) because it’s difficult to help the team. But all our players want to participate and stick to our style.”
However, they will have their task cut out with Ivan Gonzalez and Alberto Noguera missing out due to suspensions. While Goa top the charts for most possession (58%), Mumbai (57%) are not too far behind. Dominating possession has worked for Lobera’s side, who have netted a whopping 35 goals.
During the last meeting between the two sides, Ferrando had stated the pressure was on Mumbai to win the League Winners Shield. Having achieved that target, Lobera will aim to prove a lot more to his former employers.
“I love when others speak about Mumbai City as a favourite team since they are thinking we are better than them,” he said. “It’s good for us. I love this pressure but we need to prove ourselves on the pitch.”
Like Ferrando, Lobera too wants his players to enjoy themselves rather than take on pressure.
“It’s a special game,” he said. “We need to be smart and ready to play 180 minutes and tomorrow is the first step. We are excited and I hope we enjoy (the challenge),” he added.
Mumbai will be without Amey Ranawade (suspended) but the return of attacking midfielder Hugo Boumous after a four-match ban to give a massive boost to the team. Boumous, playing for FC Goa last season, was the player of the tournament.
Mumbai hold the edge
The Islanders will go into the game with a lot of confidence given how they fought back to win the League Winners’ Shield, beating ATK Mohun Bagan 2-0 in the process.
Lobera’s men are blessed with quality all over the pitch and have a lot of variety giving the coach that bit of extra flexibility to set up his team.
Ferrando too has rotated but has fewer option to turn to in comparison. They are reliant on Igor Angulo’s goals and it will be interesting to see what they do if Mumbai can manage to shut off the clinical Spaniard.
Goa is the only team who have played at their home ground this season. But against Mumbai City FC, who are have a large chunk of former Goa players, the familiarity with the ground will also not be a big factor.
Mumbai will start as favourites having finished nine points ahead of Goa, but the Gaurs have suffered fewer defeats than their fancied opponents. The knockout stage brings with it a clean slate and FC Goa will hope it will bring fresh fortunes. The past, in more ways than one, can come back to haunt them.
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