The visitors began the brighter of the two and seemed inclined to assert their passing identity on the encounter. However, akin to many a time this term, they failed to conjure an end product in the final third.
Mumbai, meanwhile, grew into the game after the opening quarter and were much better as the first half drew to a close, although the Blasters were clearly the more dominant outfit.
After the teams re-emerged from the tunnel, the Islanders looked much better in possession and transition as they cut out the spaces in midfield and barely allowed Kerala to play out from the back.
Yet, against the run of play, the visitors nudged ahead in the 75th minute when Messi Bouli struck home a left-footed shot off Jessel Carneiro’s cross. A couple of minutes later though, Amine Chermiti pegged the Blasters back as he popped up with a goal of his own.
The scorers weren’t troubled thereafter as the game meandered to a dull 1-1 stalemate.
Here is a look at why the Kerala Blasters could only manage a draw.
#3 Mumbai City FC’s improved midfield showing in the second half
Mumbai City FC began the game extremely sluggishly and were swarmed over by the visitors during the early exchanges. And, throughout that period, the hosts encountered problems trying to contain the Blasters’ midfield with Paulo Machado, Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes failing to impose themselves on the game.
However, after the break, the Islanders looked a completely different outfit in the middle of the park as they showcased more composure and incision. Unlike the opening 45 minutes, they controlled the tempo of the match and played the encounter to their pace, meaning that the Blasters were second best in midfield in the latter half.
Machado and Rowllin grew into the game as they picked up the ball in deeper positions and were also able to play around the visitors’ midfield press. Additionally, the introduction of Bipin Singh allowed Mohamed Larbi to slot into the middle third and provide extra muscle.
Consequently, a lot of the Blasters’ passing avenues were cut down, thereby forcing them to look for long balls into Messi. The above enabled the Mumbai defenders to hold a slightly deeper line and deal with the threat of the Cameroonian forward.
Most importantly though, the Islanders were willing to slightly forego their high-pressing philosophy, a tactic Kerala got the better off in the opening half.
In the process, that made the hosts more compact in midfield, thereby laying the ideal platform to churn out an impressive showing after the break.