The expulsion of Ahmed Jahouh gave NorthEast United FC a helping hand in their victory over Mumbai City FC, but Gerard Nus’ side also impressed with their tactical versatility, disciplined football and fearless demeanor.
NEUFC’s Kwesi Appiah celebrates with Federico Gallego after scoring the game-winning goal against 10 MCFC players. ISL Media
If Mumbai City FC, backed by the riches of the City Football Group, were the ‘Goliath’ as they described him before their lungs opened at ISL 2020-21, he was again killed by ‘ ‘David’ on the night as NorthEast United. The FC (NEUFC) created a surprise in its very first game of the season.
Saturday’s 1-0 victory was NEUFC’s first in a season opener since 2016 as the Gerard Nus era began with a winning start.
The Spanish NEUFC manager, who is also ISL’s youngest, has reported on his tactical astuteness and versatility to Tilak Maidan. In one of the interviews before the start of the season, Nus talked about how he would organize his team to play an “attractive style of football that will bring results”.
However, he was aware of the talents that Mumbai pack from Sergio Lobera into their team, and Nus’ pragmatic instincts overtook his adventurous intentions as he put together a team that sat deep and rarely ventured out of his way. own half until the turn of the match arrived.
Nus, during the post-match press conference, spoke about the difference in salary that Mumbai and NEUFC players earn. He wanted to play on the counterattack and although the broadcaster showed NEUFC would deploy a 4-3-3 formation, they maintained a 4-4-2 form for much of the first half as the emphasis remained on closing the chains. and cut the supply line from midfielder to center forward Bartholomew Ogbeche.
Mumbai showed patience in their tracks and dominated possession and NEUFC barely had time. Moroccan midfielder Ahmed Jahouh had been running the show since Islanders and he would ultimately decide the fate of the game. The turning point came in the 43rd minute when Jahouh was sent off with a direct red card for a Khassa Camara stud-up challenge from behind.
The equation changed from there and Nus decided to take the game in Mumbai, capitalizing on the power play they had. NorthEast started the second half on the front foot and it took them just three minutes in the second half to create a decisive goal scoring opportunity.
Dylan Fox’s header on a Luis Machado cross from the left flank hit Rowllin Borges’ hand inside the box and the referee immediately pointed the ball. Ghanaian forward Kwesi Appiah stepped in and scored his first goal for NorthEast to give them the biggest lead.
Mumbai were never able to recover after conceding as their passing game lost its intensity and NorthEast dictated the conditions until the end of the match. Sarthak Golui had the opportunity in the 65th minute to level things off but his header sailed over the crossbar. Mumbai are too good a team and Lobera is too good a coach to stay in the title chase for too long, but the opening night loss of their mega-draft under the new owners was truly unexpected.
Speaking of individual performances, NorthEast defensive midfielder Camara stood out among his teammates for his pace of work. In the opening 43 minutes when Mumbai dominated the proceedings, it was Camara’s admirable work in midfield that kept players like Hugo Boumous, Jahouh and Borges from finding Ogbeche up front. The result of Camara’s hard work was that for the first time a Lobera team failed to register a shot on target in the ISL.
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There were also lessons for the Mumbai coach. His deployment of prolific striker Adam le Fondre on the sidelines did him no favors, the English striker can not do much from outside the box. Lobera might consider playing Ogbeche and Fondre together as NEUFC won’t be the last team to choose to sit down and defend against them.
For NorthEast, it was a great night where the result was a result of tactical versatility, disciplined football and a fearless demeanor. Teams should be wary of Nus and his men as the tournament progresses.
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