And so Sergio Lobera's Mumbai City FC galacticos are off the mark. It took 190 minutes of football across two matches, it came against a team that had been playing a full half and some with just 10 men, and it came from the penalty spot, but... they're off. FC Goa 0 - 1 Mumbai City. Their first goal, their first points. Right now, for them, that's what matters.
On Wednesday, Mumbai rocked up to the Fatorda to play FC Goa with Lobera dominating the narrative -- it was his return to face the team he had moulded into India's most entertaining, the team that had sacked him when within touching distance of the league shield. It was going to be his first chance to show them up.
The game itself, though, up until that 95th minute penalty, was all Juan Ferrando, the new Goa coach directing the game from the sidelines, completely outmaneuvering his predecessor.
From the first whistle, Goa pressed high and pressed hard, passing the ball comfortably around when in possession, the tempo and the flow of the game under their control. Edu Bedia at regista was the best player on the pitch, the defensive organisation of those around him competent and the offensive intent encouraging. Their wingers, Redeem Tlang and Len Doungel were all over their respective flanks. Igor Angulo's clever movement and the positioning of advanced midfielder Alberto Noguera pegged Mumbai's defence and central midfield back. They kept at it in the early stages, and all that seemed to be lacking in the first half-hour or so was a cutting edge.
Mumbai and Lobera's famously 'non-negotiable' style was nowhere to be seen. They were unable to handle Goa's intensity and barely strung three passes together. Hugo Boumous was invisible. That they eventually resorted to simply lumping it forward to Adam Le Fondre was a triumph of Ferrando's tactics.
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It looked a matter of time before that tactical acumen would be rewarded with a goal, but then, in the 40th minute, Redeem Tlang lost the plot. Well inside the Mumbai half, he slid in, studs up, and smacked into the knee of Hernan Santana. Much like Jahouh's sending off, it was more a function of incompetence than malevolence but it was dangerous play and the red card that followed was the only possible consequence.
Even with 10 men, though, Goa carved out the best chances, and for much of the early passages in the second half, controlled the play. Edu Bedia had a trivela from outside the box smartly saved by Amrinder Singh in the Mumbai goal just past the hour mark. A couple of minutes later Amrinder was scrambling again to make a superb reflex save off Ivan Gonzalez, who had a free shot from inside the box after Mumbai's defence melted away in front of him.
Amrinder's skill kept Mumbai in the game, and as the game wore on the numerical advantage finally came to bear. Mumbai kept flooding forward, and they had their moments. In the 74th minute they strung a half-decent move together -- the ball worked to Le Fondre in the box, who's superb ball across the face of the goal was turned over the bar by Mandar Rao Dessai, four yards out and all alone. For a while there, it looked like that incident would encapsulate just how wrong it was all going for Mumbai.
Then, they got lucky. A floated cross in from Cy Goddard was headed across the face by Bipin Singh. Lenny Rodrigues had jumped with him, and it stuck his outstretched arm and although it was from behind him, it was a penalty.
Le Fondre, chosen to start over Bart Ogbeche, had the lone spark up front, running tirelessly, chasing lost causes, trying to drag his teammates up the field. So there was only ever going to be one man who'd take the penalty. And there was only ever going to be one result, as he smashed it hard and low and into the bottom corner.
Ferrando looked furious at the end, raging at the officials and curtly informing the TV crew that he wasn't very happy about how his team had handled the transitions during the game. It was understandable, a moment of ill judgement and another of plain bad luck had cost him his gameplan.
Lobera, meanwhile, looked relieved, as he told the presenters, "When you win, you're happy." Behind the smile, and the optimistic words, there was, though, an underlying tension. They did win, and they did get the three points, but this is not the way he demands his teams play. Nowhere near. But when things aren't going your way, you'll take any positives you get.
Goa were the better side on the night, but Mumbai got lucky. In the end, that's all that matters.