ISL 2019 | Studs and Duds from Mumbai FC’s entertaining draw against Kerala Blasters

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ISL 2019 | Studs and Duds from Mumbai FC’s entertaining draw against Kerala Blasters

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Subhayan Dutta

10/06/2018

Though Mumbai returned from Kochi with a valuable point in what looked like a lost cause, their fans know well that they have to improve a lot if they are to compete for the title. Here are the studs and duds from the 1-1 draw, which could indicate what to expect from whom in the next few months.

Studs

Sandesh Jhinghan

David James’ tactics don’t rely on high-intensity pressing and it was seen yesterday whenever Mumbai advanced with their slow buildups. Kerala’s backline receded rhythmically with their opponents and only went for the kill when they reached an odd five yards outside the box. And if there is one player who executed this plan impeccably, it was Jhinghan. He exacted four tackles, one block, and made eight clearances. Playing out from the back, he had a passing accuracy of 81% that hardly affronted the hosts with defensive lapse. Apart from being disciplined at the back, Jhinghan also excels in reading the game and James has rightly kept him as the commander. Selected as the “Hero of the Match” in yesterday’s match, Jhinghan was excellent in holding his defence together and the manager trusts him with his life. How else would one explain James asking 27-year-old Nemanja Lakic Pesic of Serbia to listen to an Indian centre-half, who is two years younger to him?

Luican Goian

To be honest, Mumbai City FC’s game was far from deserving of a win. It’s not as if they didn't create chances, but their feeble intent in the attacking third and wasteful chances was at one point immensely frustrating. However, while form is temporary, Goian’s persistence is permanent. It is incredible how the skipper manages to put in such intensity week in week out regardless of the discouraging losses the team has seen from time to time. It is as if he personifies determination on the field, the one whom his teammates look up to. Amidst the lacklustre Mumbai display until the equalizer in the 90th minute, Goian managed nine tackles, four clearances, and one block. But, the Romanian has been much more than a defender and it is his attacking intent that spurs Jorge Costa to allow him a free role as and when he feels. Though he didn’t take that route much frequently yesterday, as was the case against Jamshedpur, Goian still managed a shot on target.

Matej Poplatnik

Matej Poplatnik is doing what Kerala fans had expected from Dimitar Berbatov, who failed terribly, last season. The Slovenian striker started erringly in the first game against ATK where he had missed numerous chances before scoring from a deflected shot and looked clueless for most of the times. But, James seemed to have defined his responsibilities for this one and he did it brilliantly. Poplatnik might not have the technical superiority or experience as Berbatov, but he is relentless in his approach and uses his body tremendously well to win balls. Apart from a more free role up top, which makes it difficult to mark Poplatnik, he is also sound with his dead balls. Blasters looked dangerous from corners and if not for Jhaingan’s wayward headers, Poplatnik could have had assists to his name. Apart from his offensive responsibilities, Poplatnik is also shrewd with his timely tackles that more than anything breaks the opponents’ tempo. He committed four fouls yesterday and got booked for one.

Halicharan Narzary and Seiminlen Doungel

If we have to go with the opening two games, James has clearly been the frontrunner in the race of being the most clinical manager in terms of transfers. While the likes of Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, and Goa didn’t have enough reasons to go for a complete overhaul, a seventh-finished Kerala Blasters side had every reason to. However, with a nascent manager at the helm, James wasn’t given much budget to shape and he brought in these two wing duo as the big names. And as far as their efficacy is concerned, they have been tremendous. They were effective against ATK too but it took one match for them to click properly. Their relentless chase and phenomenal speed on the flanks kept Mumbai occupied throughout. And apart from their offensive exploits, as the duo combined to give their side the lead in the 24th minute, their contribution defensively also reflects the English way of football. From them Kerala got fours shot at goal, five crosses, six tackles, and two clearances, which proves how James is getting it right with them. 

Duds

Arnold Issoko

Issoko has been one of Jorge Costa’s imports from Portugal, which looked like directly from his scout recommendations. The Congo international has been playing in Portugal since the very beginning and is known for his superior physique that helps him outmuscle players up and down the flanks. And Costa cannot be blamed much for fielding the wide player as he was up against Lalruatthara on the right flank. The northeastern full back’s strength lied in speed and nimble footedness, which should have had a disadvantage against brute strength and sheer physicality. However, the African looked disoriented, out of position and was immensely wasteful from the right flank. He had a passing accuracy of 19%, which is hard to imagine, and shot two of his three shots off target. His four crosses looked aimless as they almost never found the centre-forward, Modou Sogou, and for all the talks of his physical superiority, he was unable to hold the ball against Ruatthara.

Modou Sogou

This was the second consecutive game of the season that the Senegalese striker has flopped and we are not talking about his goalless run, but his lack of footballing knowledge. Mumbai wingers putting in a cross and not finding Sougou in the right place has been an endless sight for the fans this season so far, and there is only one man to fault here – Sougou himself. While Mumbai could be blamed for a faulty setup as their slow buildup gives enough time for their opponents to fall back and take positions, Costa’s side still sees much of the ball thrown inside the box and Sougou’s job to provide the finish spoils it. Mumbai’s wingers and full-backs combined to put in as many as eight crosses yesterday and Sougou failed to meet most of them finishing the match with just one shot at target, which was off. While the duo of Pesic and Jhingan did brilliantly to keep him off, the fact that he managed only 15 passes in the whole game speaks a lot about his incapability.

Dheeraj Singh

Quite literally, Kerala’s only weak link in the entire match yesterday, Dheeraj proved that his inexperience could come back to bite David James in the four-month long run. While his wrong positioning could be blamed for the equalizer from 30-33 yards out, things could have been worse had the opponent been more clinical than Mumbai. Mumbai had nine shots at the target with Dheeraj only facing three of them, which shows their wastefulness. However, apart from Dheeraj’s poor sense of positioning and reflexes, the one thing he has to improve primarily is catching it. He lost the ball twice yesterday and both during a crowded set-piece, where the ball could have easily fallen into a Mumbai player. Being a goalkeeper himself, James would be wary of it and would already be thinking of alternatives in the near future. Dheeraj, however, made two good saves and had Pranjal not scored the late equalizer, his poor display could have been overlooked for sure.

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