Atletico Kolkata came back from a goal down to the win the 1st leg of their semifinal tie against Mumbai City 3-2 at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Saturday. Iain Hume was the star of the night with a brace for the home side. We take a look back at five of the biggest talking points from the game.
Mumbai’s defence breaks down
Having conceded just eight goals in 14 matches of the group stages, Mumbai boasted of a defensive record which has not been matched in the previous two seasons of the Indian Super League. In fact, three of those eight goals have come in a single game against Delhi earlier this season, which makes the record even more impressive.
They came into the semis on the back of four consecutive clean sheets against FC Goa, Kerala Blasters, Chennaiyin FC, and the high-scoring Delhi Dynamos side. However, last night at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, the Mumbai defence was left exposed by Kolkata’s pace and width.
The home side started the game with two natural wingers, something which very few ISL clubs have done this season, and they doubled up on Mumbai’s fullbacks. Lucian Goian and Anwar Ali, who have been a solid pair in the group stages, failed to deal with crosses with Hume winning a lot of balls in the air for Kolkata and setting up attacks. Gerson Vieira and Krisztian Vadocz also failed to provide any protection in front of the defence as Kolkata controlled possession in the middle of the park.
Mumbai were lucky to have conceded only three on the night thanks to some fine saves by Amrinder Singh, and some poor finishing by the Atletico forwards. However, if they don’t fix their issues at the back before the next leg, Kolkata will hunt them down again.
Diego Forlan’s suspension and Chhetri’s disappearing act
How fortunes changes in this game! Less than a month back, Forlan was the talk of the town for scoring a hat-trick against Kerala Blasters. Today, he is the talk of the town for a completely different reason. The Uruguayan striker was largely ineffectual throughout the night. His only positive contribution in the match was the free-kick he took which led the opening goal for Mumbai. It all went downhill after that. In the 74th minute, he kicked out at Jewel Raja after the midfielder won the ball fairly from him and received his marching orders from the referee. The kick was perhaps in frustration of his own performance, but not something you would expect from someone as experienced as him. The former Manchester United striker will now miss the next leg, and his team will have to bear the brunt of his moment of madness.
Like Forlan, Sunil Chhetri was largely anonymous throughout the match. The Indian skipper gave the ball away numerous times in the final third and was the reason for a lot of attacks breaking down near Atletico’s box. He looked like someone who is in desperate need of some rest after the grueling season with Bengaluru FC and the Indian national team. Also, there was hardly any co-ordination or chemistry between Forlan and Chhetri in attack last night. Now with Forlan suspended, Mumbai will need Chhetri, who is yet to score a goal in the ISL this season, to step up in the second leg.
Iain Hume finds form at the right moment
Iain Hume has arguably been the most consistent player of the ISL since its inaugural season. Hence, it was a surprise to see him struggle for goals at the start of this campaign. However, the Canadian forward was seemingly saving his best for the last. He is back in form, and Mumbai will have a hard time containing him once again in the next leg.
The 33-year-old ran himself to the ground for his team on Saturday. While both his goals were clinically taken, it was his off-the-ball work which was more impressive. He hassled the Mumbai defenders when they were in possession of the ball, and was orchestrating Kolkata’s pressing up front.
Despite his small stature, he won a lot of duels in the air against much bigger central defenders. In fact, he won more aerial duels than Helder Postiga. Hume also produced a master-class in movement off-the-ball. He went wide to support Doutie and Didika, while made a lot of well-timed runs in behind the Mumbai defence. It is a surprise that he was not able to complete his hat-trick last night, but his work-rate and hunger is something exemplary.
The Doutie and Prabir combo
Like Hume, Doutie too had an inconsistent start to the league campaign. In fact, many questioned Jose Francisco Molina’s decision to bench Javi Lara in favour of Doutie, although both are completely different kind of players. However, the South African has once again proved his worth on the night with a stunning performance.
In an age where wingers are barely seen hugging the touchline, Doutie is a breath of fresh air. In fact, Kolkata are one of the few sides in the ISL who have lined up with two orthodox wingers in their attacks.
Mumbai’s left back Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte will have nightmares of Doutie running at him for a few days now, and the 27-year-old was well supported by Prabir Das, who was made to look like Cafu version 2.0 by Mumbai. In Ralte’s defence, he received no cover or backing from the men in front of him on that side of the pitch, and the Indian defender resorted to reckless challenges to stop Doutie from humiliating him time and again. Ralte was lucky to have been on the pitch for so long after the number of rash challenges he put in on the South African, and also when he conceded the penalty. On another night, Mumbai would have been down to nine men. Alexandre Guimaraes was forced to substitute the left back, and he might need to replace him from the starting lineup in the next game as well.
Zico was right - Refereeing standard is appalling in ISL
Zico was right you know. The standard of refereeing in the ISL has been questionable to say the least. While Ralte did have a terrible night, he was not at fault for the penalty. In fact, it should not have been a penalty in the first place. As Doutie passed the ball to Postiga at the edge of the box, the Portuguese played the ball beyond Ralte and basically ran into him. The defender was just holding his ground and made no movement to stop Postiga’s progress. Secondly, given the referee thought it was a big enough infringement to award a penalty, he should have also shown Ralte his second yellow card, but the cards never came out of his pocket. In fact, just four minutes before that penalty incident, Ralte should have seen his second yellow when he brought down Doutie with another late and cynical challenge. But the cards remained in the pocket at that time as well. In the first half, Keegan Pereira also escaped a booking despite catching Chhetri’s face with his boot while challenging for an aerial ball. Such inconsistency is why players and managers go mad at the sideline.