A tough start to the campaign for the Islanders as they went down to NorthEast United 1-0 in our opening clash of the Hero Indian Super League 2020-21 Season. Head coach Sergio Lobera went all out with his attacking option and included the likes of Adam Le Fondre, Bartholomew Ogbeche, and Hugo Boumous in the starting eleven.
MCFC had more possession of the ball in the opening minutes of the game and were quick to find themselves inside the box in the 7th minute but were restrained by Khassa Camara who made an important block for the Highlanders.
Both teams kept things tight and there were no real goal-scoring opportunities inside the first 10 minutes of the game.
A good passage of play by Adam Le Fondre in the 12th minute from the right side found Bartholomew Ogbeche who played the ball in the box only to find Ashutosh Mehta who didn't take any chance and cleared the ball for a corner kick.
The best opportunity of the first half came from a corner in the following minute but Ogbeche's header was not precise enough to find the back of the net.
The Islanders kept the pressure going. Ahmed Jahouh, who was looking good so far, once again saw an opportunity from distance in the 15th minute of the game but a wide attempt saw it all go in vain. Rowllin Borges too tried his luck and went for a ferocious hit only to find the side netting in the 23rd minute of the game.
The Islanders got the first major blow when an uncomfortable-looking Raynier had to leave the pitch in the 25th minute of the game. He was subbed off for Farukh Choudhary. It was good sharp football by the Islanders as the game saw 223 passes by our boys against 56 by the Highlanders till the 33rd minute.
Sarthak Golui was unfortunate to end up on a receiving end as he was given the game's first booking after a soft fall on Machado in the 39th minute of the first half.
Just a couple of minutes later saw some lovely passing by MCFC but it all went too many in the end and a potential goal-scoring opportunity went missing.
The joy of more possession and plenty of attempts all counted for nothing in the 43rd minute. The Islanders were down to 10 men after Jahouh's mistimed challenge on Camara saw him receive a straight red card by the referee. Despite more domination, Mumbai City FC had to settle for a goalless first-half.
Things went from bad to worse for the Islanders as NEUFC was awarded a penalty in the 47th minute of the game after Dylan Fox's header hit Rowllin Borges’ arm in the box. Kwesi Appiah, the former Crystal Palace player, made no mistake and found the back of the net to put the Highlanders ahead early in the second half of the match.
Unlike the first-half, NEUFC were the more dominating side in the early parts of the second. They had the advantage of a man and a goal and clearly were in control of the game.
MCFC made their second change in the 58th minute, a tactical one as Ogbeche was replaced by Cy Goddard and as a result, a new role was given to Le Fondre who moved more centrally. NEUFC too followed up with their double change with Britto PM and Federico Gallego coming in for Lalrempuia Fanai and Luis Machado.
In the 65th minute, Hugo Boumous helped MCFC win an important free-kick from a promising position. The free-kick was followed by back-to-back corners with Mumbai City FC almost drawing things in the second one but Sarthak's header went just over the crossbar.
Kwesi Appiah, the goal-scorer for NEU was replaced by Idrissa Sylla in the 70th minute of the match. With less than 17 minutes to go, coach Sergio Lobera also made two changes and brought Amey Ranawade and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy for Mohamad Rakip and Mandar Rao Dessai.
In the 83rd minute of the game, Farukh almost got MCFC back on level terms but his effort was straight at Dylan Fox who was at the right place and at the right time and did nothing wrong to clear the ball.
Former MCFC defender Ashutosh was booked for a foul on Farukh, but a free-kick from the edge of the box had no positive outcome for the Islanders. Leading by a goal, Gerard Nus made the last one change of the match as Lalrempuia Fanai got subbed by Imran Khan in the 90th minute of the half.
The stoppage time saw two bookings, one for each side. Both Federico Gallego and Cy Goddard were given yellow cards in 90+2' & 90+5' minutes of the game.
With 10 men, it was always going to be difficult for the Islanders. But the boys showed great character in the first half and will take a lot of positives from it. No shot on target will be a cause of concern for the Islanders as they take on FC Goa on November 25.