For large parts of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season, Mumbai City have looked absolutely imperious. Under Sergio Lobera, the Islanders have ticked all the right boxes so far and have managed to brush off almost all the sides that have challenged them with comparative ease. Be it their attack, midfield or defence, different players have stood up and made themselves count in important junctures as a result of which they are now the first team to qualify for the playoff positions.
However, things haven’t been quite the same in the last few games. Against SC East Bengal, Lobera’s side managed to come off with a narrow victory but that was after they, almost strangely, soaked most of the pressure in the second half without creating much themselves. An unlikely outcome of that game was that the Red and Golds finished the match with 60% possession and 225 more passes than Mumbai, with a 77% pass completion rate compared to their 71%.
The loss against NorthEast United was the next big reality check. However, this was more of a counter-attacking masterstroke from the Highlanders whereby they were always just ahead of their opponents to every loose ball and also got some luck along the way. But last night against FC Goa was almost like a replay of the East Bengal match, only this time, Mumbai didn’t win. The Gaurs enjoyed 57% possession and completed 336 of their 443 passes, almost double that of Mumbai’s 190 completed passes out of the 289 that they attempted. Their defenders were time and again caught in the conundrum regarding whether to play the offside trap or sit deep and their midfield pivot rarely ever managed to block a long-range shot or dispossess an opponent in front of the box.
Maybe it is the impact of a long, tiring season with a congested fixture list that is making Mumbai City seem a little more vulnerable than they would like others to think. Whatever the reason, Lobera’s men have to dig deep and find ways to see off matches like the one against Goa where they lost a two-goal lead to eventually miss out on two valuable points. Or else, ATK Mohun Bagan might just be in with a chance to displace them from the top spot come the end of the group stages.