There’s a certain degree of reassurance in the FC Goa camp. Throughout the Indian Super League, the focus has been on their finishing, or the lack of it. Adding to their woes was Robert Pires’s indifferent form. But it all finally came together in their previous match against Delhi Dynamos. After scoring just five goals in their seven previous matches, Goa pumped in four against the Alessandro del Piero-led side, with Pires too scoring his first. Not surprisingly, there was a spring in the Goan players’ step ahead of Monday’s clash against Mumbai City.
The smiles were back on their faces and even Zico, Goa’s high-profile manager, looked relaxed. He blamed the poor start on the recklessness of the players, who were ‘trying to do things themselves’. “But it’s all coming together now. The second phase is a bit complicated, the teams at the top will play defensively and we will have to take risks,” he said. And be creative as well.
Goa’s new-found confidence as an attacking unit will be put to test against a water-tight Mumbai City defence. Like Goa, Mumbai too have had troubles finding the back of the net but they are looking it at as a case of glass being half-full. Mumbai’s inability to score frequently has been masked by the fact that they haven’t conceded either.
And that’s a stat Mumbai are harping on. Subrata Pal has kept cleansheet in four consecutive matches, meaning Goa will have to be at their creative best to beat him and the nice-settled back-four in front of the goalkeeper. Mumbai have put in extra hours to get their defence in shape after suffering embarrassing defeats against Chennaiyin and NorthEast United.
Since the 5-1 drubbing they suffered in Chennai, Mumbai have not allowed their opponents to have sniff at their goal. They held their last two opponents – Kerala Blasters and Goa – to goalless draws. And even though they were wasteful in the attacking third, Mumbai’s strong defensive display earned them quite a few plaudits. “We have ensured that the gaps we have had earlier in the league, we have closed them. We are communicating better on the field and we started working as a unit. That’s changed over the last few matches,” defender Tiago Ribeiro said.
Mumbai City have 11 points from eight matches so far, just two behind table-toppers Atletico Kolkata. A victory on Monday could see them take pole position in the overall standings for the first time in the tournament. For that to happen though, they will not only have to keep Pires & Co at bay, but also hope that their own strikers manage to get the better of the Goan defence.