A 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Indian Super League semi-final between FC Goa and Mumbai City FC where the away goals rule does not apply would have suited Juan Ferrando’s side.
After all, they had finished nine points behind Mumbai in the league phase and had failed to beat them in the two matches.
But at the end of the ninety minutes, as the referee blew for full-time with the scores level-pegging, FC Goa would have felt they had missed an opportunity. The reason for it goes beyond the fact that the Gaurs twice led in the game.
FC Goa, the better unit
Ferrando’s men simply had the better of the game. They had more possession (52%) than Mumbai (48%), enjoyed a territorial advantage (53%) and forced Mumbai to spend most time of the game in their own half.
Mumbai’s average position in the match was at 44.8m from their own goal while Goa were much higher with an average positional distance of 52.4m.
Very few teams have managed to peg back to Mumbai City FC this season and even Sergio Lobera admitted that his side wasn’t always up to the mark.
“I am not happy today. We didn’t have control over that match. They are a team that are comfortable with the ball and we didn’t control the game for many parts,” he said after the game.
The average positions of the eleven players of the two teams have clues as to where Mumbai City FC struggled to impose themselves on the game despite the superior individual quality.
Mumbai were slightly disjointed for quite a chunk of the game. As the average positions of their players show, there is a big gap between their front four and the rest of the team.
Hugo Boumous almost played as a second striker at times floating in and around Bartholomew Ogbeche. With FC Goa pressing Mumbai during the build-up phase, Lobera’s men often found the distance between the forward and midfield line too big to breach. The average distance from goal of FC Goa’s recoveries was 43m which was fairly high and pretty much where Mumbai’s deep-lying midfielders were usually positioned. So this disjointed shape made it easier for Goa to stop Mumbai from progressing the ball into the forwards.
Mumbai’s midfield, in general, was disorganised and it hurt them defensively too. When in possession in Goa’s half, they left big spaces between their midfield and defensive lines which the Gaurs midfielders, especially Ortiz, made the most of. Goa’s second goal was also a result of Saviour Gama exploiting the space between Mumbai’s midfield and defensive lines.
Adil Khan picked Saviour Gama in acres of space between the lines. As he ran at the Mumbai backline completely unchallenged, the back four kept falling back instead of dealing with the danger. Eventually, Gama after reaching in his range found the net with a low shot that comfortably beat Amrinder Singh in goal.
Goa were able to cause Mumbai similar problems in the first half as well, as Ortiz kept receiving the ball between the lines. Their central midfielders stayed close to each other. In addition, Ortiz also tucked from the left to add to their numbers in the central area to help the central overload. That allowed space for the full-backs to bomb forward.
In comparison, the average positions of the Mumbai City FC full-backs were much deeper. That had its advantages as well as the distance between the Mumbai City FC centre-back and full-back was rarely too big and the back four was able to get compact and prevent Goa from creating too many chances in the final third.
Mumbai’s individual quality makes it count
Even though Mumbai City FC did not assert themselves on the game, they had enough about them to hurt FC Goa who were performing better as a unit on the day.
The marauding full-backs and a relatively narrow central midfield meant Mumbai City FC got plenty of space in the wide areas behind the full-backs. Adam Le Fondre, playing on the right, and Bipin Singh were thus staying wide to get into these spaces and stretch the Goa defence. And when they did so, the full-backs would overlap to create overloads on the flanks.
Mumbai had 19 crosses in the game compared to Goa’s two and that’s where Lobera’s men created a few big openings. Ogbeche had three chances from crosses in the entire game. The first was saved by Dheeraj and with the next two, he failed to find the target. The second of those chances from a cutback from the right had his totally unmarked inside the box, but he fired over. Had he finished better, Mumbai would have won the game.
Eventually, the two goals they scored though were down to individual quality. The first one was an opening created by Boumous with a bit of luck going his way, but there was nothing fortuitous about the finish as he drilled a half-volley into the bottom corner.
The second goal was headed home by Mourtada Fall who now has the joint-most headed goals in ISL history along with Sunil Chhetri. A pinpoint cross from Ahmed Jahouh was finished off well by the tall centre-back.
The rub of the green
Mumbai enjoyed the rub of the green a bit as some key refereeing decisions went their way. Fall who slid in with two feet for a tackle on Princeton Rebello at the end of the game should have seen a red card. If Ferrando’s post-match comments are to be believed, Rebello is set to be out for a month after fracturing his foot from the challenge.
There were two penalty calls in the first half apart from the one that Goa won their penalty, that could easily have gone in their favour.
In the end, in a game where FC Goa performed better as a team, Mumbai City FC eked out a draw by making the few moments that came their way count.
With Ivan Gonzalez and Alberto Noguera returning for Goa in the next match, Ferrando’s men will have their key players back. But will Mumbai City FC, who got away despite faltering on the night, give them another easy ride? If the league phase is anything to go by, perhaps not.
Stats Courtesy: Opta (Stats Perform)
Watch full highlights of the match below:
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