FC Goa 2 – Mumbai City FC 2
1)Gama And Leander Showcase Local Depth
FC Goa have an excellent pathway to their first team in their developmental side. When Leander D’Cunha was summoned by his manager to fill in after Seriton Fernandes got injured in the first half, the debutant hardly looked out of place. It was a big occasion too and was reminiscent of Saviour Gama’s introduction in the 2018-19 final against Bengaluru, when Mandar Rao Dessai had to be taken off at halftime. There have been a number of players who have come into this team in recent years and fitted right in. Liston Colaco, Mohammad Nawaz, Devendra Murgaonkar and Princeton Rebello have all established themselves as first teamers in the league. With the game finally balanced at 1-1, Gama made a fine weaving run from his left-back position towards the edge of the box before unleashing a shot that beat India’s finest goalkeeper. It was a statement of intent from one of Goa’s young guns and while the goal did not result in victory, the Gaurs have given themselves an even chance in the second leg. For the superstitious ones out there, Gama had only scored once before. That effort came in the semifinal first leg last season against Chennaiyin. That of course, ended badly.
2) Set Piece Threat Carry Mumbai Yet Again
Mourtada Fall had elaborated on the work his team have done on set pieces before this game kicked off. That focus in training has certainly paid off as Mumbai have scored more goals from these routines than any other side this season. Hugo Boumous had not done much of note before he scored the first goal for his side, albeit a touch fortunately when the ball ricocheted kindly for him. It was a strong response to the penalty Mumbai had conceded earlier in the first half. And that ability to fight back in games was on display again as Fall headed in a second equalizer from an Ahmed Jahouh cross almost immediately after Gama had scored. It was from the second phase following a corner but Fall had done well to remain in the box just in case the ball came back. And it did. The Islanders had the better chances in this game but Bartholomew Ogbeche spurned a few good opportunities and a 2-2 result was probably a fair result in the end between the two best passing sides in the league.
NorthEast United 1 – ATK Mohun Bagan 1
3) Highlanders Refuse To Go Away
With revitalized striker, Deshorn Brown, out due to injury, NorthEast United had their task cut out for them in a vital fixture. As they have been wont to do all season though, the Highlanders found a way as Idrissa Sylla’s 94th minute header restored parity before both teams do it all again on Tuesday. Khalid Jamil had opted to leave the Guinean on the bench even in Brown’s absence and this was probably a fair call given that Sylla had not scored a goal since November. Both managers are feted for the way they organize their teams and chances were far and few between for the forward men. Pushing for an equalizer, Jamil brought on Sylla midway through the second half, removing Benjamin Lambot from the heart of his defence. It paid off right at the end. Sylla played the ball to Luis Machado and continued his run into the box. The delivery was perfect on this occasion and the Highlanders walked away on even terms.
4) Habas Yet To Win A Semifinal First Leg
Antonio López Habas is the most decorated manager in the history of the league with two titles to show for his efforts. He could not quite deliver the goods at erstwhile FC Pune City, leaving his position after failing to take that team to the playoffs in 2016. At ATK, and now ATK Mohun Bagan, he has fulfilled that brief on every occasion. His record in the first leg of semifinals isn’t great though. In 2014, his team drew 0-0 against Goa before winning on penalties in the second leg. The following year, a 0-3 reverse against Chennaiyin was too much of a hurdle to overcome. Last season, ATK lost 0-1 before turning things around and winning 3-1 against Bengaluru. A first half goal by David Williams, who had won every game he had scored in for the Kolkatan outfit, seemed to finally put his manager on the course to victory against NorthEast. That streak ended with Sylla’s goal while Habas’ extended.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page