Defending Indian Super League champions Mumbai City FC have hit a rough patch of form losing 2 of their last 3 matches. Mumbai conceded 7 goals in their first 6 matches but then went on to concede 10 in their last 3 games. As the Islanders prepare to face bottom-placed SC East Bengal, we explore the defensive woes in Des Buckingham's team.
Their recent defensive performances against Kerala Blasters, North East United FC, and Odisha FC have come under scrutiny. Mainly due to the fact that they will represent India in the AFC Champions League group stages this year. Mumbai, unlike FC Goa last year, doesn't have the luxury of taking two foreign centre-backs. Let us first have a look at how Mumbai is conceding its goals.
As Mumbai has Mourtada Fall in defence and Ahmed Jahouh in defensive midfield, it is very tough to break them down from the middle. Their opponents have thus made use of the wings to make inroads into their half, dragging the team to one side. Which has often left free space on the opposite side or near the center.
When Sahal Abdul Samad opened the scoring for Kerala Blasters against Mumbai, this is exactly what happened. Adrian Luna puts in a lofted pass to Jorge Peryera Diaz into the left half-space. Fall is caught ball-watching. Bheke follows Diaz, who crosses it in. Sahal holds his run to get away from Mandar before expertly finishing off the move.
Hyderabad's second goal also had a similar story. Aniket Jadhav receives a through ball in the right half-space, which draws Rahul Bheke and Rakip towards him. Bartholomew Ogbeche holds his run at the edge of the box and arrives late. Aniket's pass finds him in space in the middle of the penalty box and Ogbeche calmly slots it in.
This however isn't the only issue Mumbai is dealing with. Another issue is the lack of communication or rather miscommunication between centre backs and side backs. With Mourtada Fall out against North East, Des Buckingham went in with an attacking mindset, as they had to play a full Indian defence. But, Khalid Jamil had a masterstroke of his own to counter this. Taking advantage of the miscommunication between the defenders, he decided to use Deshorn Brown's speed to exploit the space.
For the first goal, Imran Khan's long ball found Brown, who got in behind Mandar. Brown controlled it with his chest on the edge of the box and put it beyond Nawaz. North East's second goal was a reflection of the same strategy, with Matias Courier's long ball finding brown, who shrugged off Mehtab Singh before hitting the back of the net.
Odisha FC also exploited the wings with both Aridai and Jerry scoring from the half-spaces in their box. Mumbai has scored 22 goals so far but if the defensive issues aren't sorted out, it could massively dent their title hopes and the aspirations of getting results in the Asian stage.