NorthEast United pulled off their first win in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21, with a 1-0 success over Mumbai City FC in the two sides’ opening game of the season.
A Kwesi Appiah penalty was the difference between the two sides, in a game that twisted in one pivotal moment.
Right at the end of the first half, Mumbai City FC’s mercurial midfielder Ahmed Jahouh was sent off, after a bad tackle on NorthEast United’s defensive midfielder Khassa Camara.
Mumbai City trailed soon after half-time. Rowllin Borges was adjudged to have handled Dylan Fox’s header off a Luis Machado cross. Referee R. Venkatesh had no hesitation in giving NorthEast United a penalty, which Appiah converted by sending Amrinder Singh the wrong way.
Mumbai City FC dominate the early exchanges
Head coach Sergio Lobera started with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Adam Le Fondre tucked in on the right flank, to accommodate Bartholomew Ogbeche up front.
Mumbai City FC suffered a blow early in the game when Raynier Fernandes clashed with Ashutosh Mehta and had to be substituted after picking up an injury. Nonetheless, Mumbai City dominated possession in the first half and moved the ball around at a decent tempo, with Jahouh orchestrating the play with some terrific passing.
But, some early-season rust did show for Mumbai City FC, as they were just not able to put things together in the final third, even when they were dominating possession.
They had a chance off a set-piece, but Ogbeche headed it over. Outside of the gilt-edged opportunity, they were reduced to hopeful hits from distance throughout the first half, which didn’t trouble Subhashish Roy Chowdhury in the NorthEast United goal.
Jahouh’s sending off proves pivotal
Throughout the first half, NorthEast United were just hanging on, but they were well-organised, and proved difficult to break down. Both Dylan Fox and Benjamin Lambot stood tall and repelled any threat that came their way from the Mumbai City FC attackers.
However, Jahouh’s sending off allowed NorthEast to take control of the game. They came out in the second-half a completely changed side, as they looked to dominate proceedings.
From a corner which they played short, Machado played a cross to Fox at the back-post, and his head struck Rowllin’s arm, which was extended away from his body. The penalty decision was the correct call, and Appiah made no mistake from the spot.
Mumbai City FC looked flat for most of the second half, as they struggled to make too many inroads while playing with a man less.
In the end, Mumbai City FC finished the game with no shots on target. This was the first time that an ISL team managed by Sergio Lobera failed to register a single shot on target. For context, ISL 2020-21 is the Spaniard’s fourth season in the league.
Lobera now heads into the next game without his midfield general and comes up against his old side, as Mumbai City FC take on FC Goa on Wednesday.
ISL 2020-21, NEUFC vs MCFC: Who was the Hero of the Match?
Mauritanian midfielder Khassa Camara was immense for Nus’s side in the middle of the park. He protected the back four, made some crunching tackles, and help NorthEast hang on in the first half. In the second half, he showed was more adventurous with his passing, as NorthEast held on to the lead that Appiah gave them. It was a well-deserved award for Camara.
There were also terrific performances from Lalengmawia in midfield, and Ninthoingamba Meitei on the right flank, as Gerard Nus put his faith in the youngsters.
Published 22 Nov 2020, 00:15 IST