ISL 2018/19: Mumbai City FC showing signs of revival
Coming into their third game of the Indian Super League, not many knew what to expect from Mumbai City FC. And for a team that has underachieved for the most part of their short history, it was no surprise.
They say first impressions matter because more often than not you’re remembered for that. And if that were to be true, not many would have wished to turn up to see the Islanders take on neighbours FC Pune City on Friday (October 19).
They had a dreadful opener against Jamshedpur FC. Though that match ended 0-2 in favour of the visitors, the Islanders were toyed with and outsmarted by a team that came with a plan. And if not for some poor finishing from Jamshedpur and some creditable defending in the dying moments, the scoreline would have been much worse.
Then came their away trip to Kerala Blasters FC, a team that was running high on confidence after their commanding win over former champions ATK in the opening game week. And the way in which that game began, it looked like Mumbai were once again in for a schooling. But thanks to a splendid goal from Pranjal Bhumij, the team returned home with their first point of the season.
A loss and a draw in the back, Mumbai were still searching for their first win of the season, and in came FC Pune City. Things couldn’t have got any tougher for Jorge Costa and his side. But unfazed by the problems staring at him, the Portuguese sounded confident of his side’s chances.
“It is true that we are starting a bit late with the preparation. It's also true that we are building a new team. But this cannot be an excuse. We will not find excuses. We're working hard every day and I'm sure that tomorrow (Friday) we will do much better than how we did in our first game,” he would say in the pre-match press briefing.
And this message seemed to go down well with the side. On Friday, there were barely any missed passes, the team looked more composed, and even though the players committed errors, they always had a team-mate to cover up the mess. And that’s primarily a reason why even though Pune started brightly, Mumbai could wear them out as the game progressed.
The foreign act
One of the stark differences from what we have seen of this Jorge Costa side in the two games before to what we saw on Friday was their foreign recruits finally getting their act together.
Modou Sougou, playing as a lone striker up front, was a handful for the Pune centrebacks on the evening. He would find enough space to run between Martin Diaz and Matt Mills time and again, creating a situation of panic in the Pune backline. And with Arnold Issoko and Rafael Bastos bombarding the wings with their constant runs, primarily because the Pune head coach Miguel Angel Portugal chose to play a high line of defence, the Pune defenders had their hands full on the evening.
While the foreigners finally stepped up their game for Mumbai, one just can't keep the Indians in the side aside. The likes of Raynier Fernandes and Souvik Chakraborty matched their opponents toe-to-toe, leaving no room for complacency on the evening. Subashish Bose, a full-back by trait, once again showed his versatility as he paired up with the experienced Lucian Goian for the second game running.
This is not to say that Mumbai have got all their problems sorted and are a team to beat this season. That can’t be the case unless they show such noteworthy improvements in their coming games as well. Until then, this is a work in progress.