Mumbai City FC made it to their first-ever Hero Indian Super League's final after winning the two-legged semi final tie against FC Goa 6-5 on penalties. The second leg of the semifinal remained goalless after an intense 120 minutes of football and went to sudden death after a 2-2 score in best of five penalties before Rowllin Borges stepped up to the occasion and sent the Islanders to their maiden ISL final.
Hernan Santana, Amey Ranawade & Rowllin Borges returned to the Mumbai City FC's starting lineup. Ivan Gonzalez, Alberto Noguera and Redeem Tlang made their way back to FC Goa's playing eleven.
Both sides came to the second leg of the semi-final with one thing in mind, to go hard to win the game of football. They did exactly that and played with heart. There was a shared bit of domination with the ball by the two semi-finalists but some excellent work at the defense kept the score nil-nil in the first 45 mins at Bambolim.
A lot of commitment was clearly evident from both sides. As a result, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy ended up receiving the first yellow card of the match, which didn't look one in a bright daylight.
A diving effort by Amrinder denied FC Goa the opening goal in the 27th min but it was Ranawade who made a heroic save by putting his body on the line to save the Islanders conceding the goal.
Post the drinks break, FC Goa won a free kick in a promising position. Ortiz went for the target and was comfortably cleared by a full stretched Amrinder for a corner. In the 38th min, Le Fondre won a free kick for Mumbai in an interesting position, close to the touchline, on the right side of Dheeraj. Jahouh did the honours and sent the ball to Hugo outside the box who fired it well over the crossbar for a goal kick, not the best attempt to get the ball on target.
There were efforts from both sides inside the first half. The Gaurs came close twice in one play in the latter stage of the first half. Both sides left the pitch at the stroke of half-time without any goal.
FC Goa brought in the most prolific substitute of the season Ishan Pandita at half-time for Redeem Tlang.
The change gave a fair bit of edge to the visitors on a lot of occasions. But the Islanders weren't going anywhere as Amrinder Singh led them by example and made three vital saves inside 18 minutes of the second half.
The Islanders' captain denied Romario and the Gaurs an opener early in the second half with a finger-tip save in the 48th min. Another excellent save came in the 55th min. Game with the ball had ran into the final third of Mumbai's defense and went for glory. But once again it was Amrinder who had to stretch well to his left to make another brilliant save for the home side.
In the 62nd moment, FC Goa on a counter almost found the back of the net with a brilliant diving header by Ishan Pandita, only to be denied by Amrinder, who perhaps made the best save of the match to keep the Islanders in the game.
There were a few half-chances, but both sides didn't blink for even seconds. Head Coach Sergio Lobera made a couple of changes in the stoppage time. Vikram Partap Singh and Mandar Rao Dessai came in for Bipin Singh and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy. But the highlight of the stoppage time was a huge miss by James Donachie who missed the header completely after Edu Bedia's brilliant delivery in the last stage of the stoppage time.
Bartholomew Ogbeche replaced Adam Le Fondre at the start of the extra time as both sides gave it all in tough humid conditions. Solid defending, important interceptions, cramps, we've had it all in the extra time.
FC Goa made two changes in the 101st min. Igor Angulo and Brandon Fernandes replaced Alberto Noguera and Saviour Gama. There was a bit of luck that saved both sides in the second half of the extra time. A couple of yellow cards, one for Mandar Rao Dessai and the other for Sanson Pereira followed by a nasty clash between FC Goa's keeper Dheeraj and Ivan Gonzalez summed up the second half of the extra time.
A much experienced Naveen Kumar replaced Dheeraj Singh in the 119th minute and much was evident that the match will be decided in penalties as Phurba Lachenpa took over the duties from Amrinder Singh after the whistle.
Phurba Lachenpa's first save of this season's Hero ISL couldn't be any better. He denied FC Goa skipper Edu Bedia, who took the first penalty. Bart Ogbeche stepped up and scored with ease to put the Islanders ahead after first attempts from both sides.
FC Goa's Brandon Fernandes went on to take the second penalty for his side but only managed to find the side post. Hernan Santana couldn't pounce on the advantage as he couldn't beat Naveen as the Islanders stayed 1-0 after two attempts from both semi-finalists.
The experience of Igor Angulo was too much for Phurba to control. Despite jumping in the right direction, the Mumbai custodian failed to stop a near-perfect spot kick. Hugo Boumous followed up with a miss as FC Goa levelled things up after three attempts.
Ivan Gonzalez and Raynier Fernandes scored for both sides in the next attempt followed by miss attempts, each from James Donachie and Ahmed Jahouh as the shootout went to sudden death.
The standards of taking penalties were right on top as the match progressed. Ishan Pandita, Jorge Ortiz and Adil Khan scored for FC Goa. Amey Ranawade, Mourtada Fall and Mandar Rao Dessai too kept the home side in the game.
Glan Martins in the 9th attempt missed the target and it was all back on the experience of Rowllin Borges. The Indian found the bottom left corner and sent the Hero ISL Shield Winners into the final of the Hero Indian Super League season 7.
It was a heartbreak for FC Goa as they showed a lot of courage and fought well during the course of two-leg semifinals. One last hurdle for Sergio Lobera and his Mumbai City FC as they will wait for the result of the second leg of the other semi-final tomorrow.
The final is on Saturday, 13 March and as the Head Coach said after winning the League Shield, the job is not done yet, the Islanders can't wait to get over the line on the coming Saturday.