ISL 2020-21, Match 2: Plucky NorthEast United FC Spoil Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City Bow


In football, individual moments often decide the larger story that unfolds over 90 minutes. On Saturday, Mumbai City FC learned the hard way. A red card and a penalty kick turned a game they otherwise dominated over its head and gave NorthEast United FC a winning start to Indian Super League (ISL) Season 7, at Tilak Maidan in Vasco. (More football news)

Kwesi Appiah (49th) scored the only goal from the penalty spot after the Islanders were reduced to 10 men following Ahmed Jahouh’s red card just before the break.

At first it seemed like NorthEast was aiming for nothing more than a goalless draw, extreme caution visible in their game plan.

As you might expect, it was Mumbai that dominated the first half. The islanders were neat and proactive during the long stays, although they were unable to find a tip. Despite players like Jahouh, Hugo Boumous and Rowllin Borges all capable of creating magic on the same day, Sergio Lobera’s side failed to get a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

They held the lion’s share of possession which at times resulted in hopeful efforts. In the 12th minute, Adam le Fondre’s cross from the right wing found striker Bartholomew Ogbeche. The resulting effort, however, was intercepted by northeast defender Ashutosh Mehta. In the minutes that followed, a header from Ogbeche flew over the bar as Jahouh made two attempts from a distance. Lobera’s men had no clear chance, however.

Then the game took an unexpected turn as Jahouh, who was dictating things from the midfielder, was sent off with a straight red a few minutes before half-time. His attack was a level challenge on Khassa Camara of NorthEast.

Gérard Nus’ men capitalized on their power play soon after the restart. The Highlanders received a 49th-minute penalty when the ball hit Borges’ arm after NorthEast’s Dylan Fox headed into a short corner. Appiah sent Guardian Amrinder Singh in the wrong direction.

With Mumbai now under pressure, NorthEast has taken control of the game with Khumanthem Meetei and Appiah making regular forays. Lobera made a tactical change by replacing Ogbeche with Stephen Goddard, giving the Fondre a central role up front. Mumbai had a rare chance in the 65th minute when Sarthak put his head on a cross, but his effort sailed a few inches above the bar. Lobera’s side continued to knock on the door in the final quarter, but they lost an equalizer.

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