ISL 2020-21: NorthEast United stun ten-men Mumbai City FC at home
Sergio Lobera's side was reduced down to ten before NorthEast earned their winner.
The second match of the Indian Super League (ISL) turned out to be a big upset as big guns Mumbai City FC suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of NorthEast United FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa on Saturday.
Kwesi Appiah scored the lone goal of the evening from the spot as the Highlanders took away all three points in their league opening campaign.
The match began with Mumbai City FC holding the lion's share of possession, but it was never turned out to be fruitful as the Islanders only managed to take shots from distance against a rock-solid NorthEast defence.
A 23rd-minute volley from Rowllin Borges was the first strong attempt at goal but visitors' custodian Subashish Roy had his angles covered.
In the 26th minute, Raynier Fernandes got injured and was forcibly replaced by Farukh Choudhary. But the biggest jolt for Mumbai came just two minutes before the half time, as Ahmed Jahouh was given marching orders for a lunging tackle on Camara.
The second half did not make things any better for the visitors as in the 49th minute, a hand ball from Borges inside the box led to a penalty that Appiah converted to give the hosts a lead.
The rest of the half turned out to be NorthEast staying deep in their defence and Mumbai trying to bifurcate through it. The visitors, however, never managed to find the equalizer.
The Highlanders' head coach Gerard Nus was pleased with the team's efforts, “I think we played a competitive game. We knew what to expect from a brilliant side like Mumbai City and we followed our plan and did a fantastic job. I’m so pleased with all my players. Even the guys that didn’t get much time in the game or the ones who didn’t get a single minute but they were pushing the team from the bench. So, I’m pleased with the team, this is the start of what I believe is a serious season for NorthEast United and obviously, I’m happy but need to keep improving at the same time."
The turning point of the game was the red card shown to Jahouh that changed the complexion of the game. "Obviously, penalties and sending-offs are moments in any football game. They make things go one way or another but in the end, they are just moments. If you relax then a team like Mumbai City will punish you so we had the right mentality, were switched on all the time and were very strong. So, I’m very happy about it," the coach said.
Stressing on the importance of a winning start, Nus said, "When you start a new season, it’s always nice to start with three points. But even if the result wasn’t in our favour, you can see that there is a clear pattern of play and I’ve said that since day one. We are going to be a team that fights, we will never give up and that’s what we saw today and also in the friendly matches we had before the season started."
Mumbai City FC head coach Sergio Lobera also agreed that the Jahouh's sending off was what changed the game, “It was a big problem for us today because I believe that the red card changed the game and playing with 10 men and missing a big player like Jahouh was a big problem for us. But I have 28 players for the next game and I am very happy with the squad, so I’m not going to make any excuses for the next game after losing just one player."
The coach was asked if his players were over-enthusiastic to play his brand of football, to which he said, "We tried to implement a new style of play but it’s not easy. Four players played with me before but the rest of the players are new to my system. I am still happy but we need to improve and it’s important to improve by winning. Today it wasn’t possible but we need to put all our focus into the next game.”