Mumbai City FC was always going to be a tough opponent for SC East Bengal if the former could find their groove and flair and the Islanders did exactly that on Tuesday when they crushed East Bengal 3-0 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa. This was Mumbai City FC's first 'home' game and they made it count. They finally found the rhythm they had been looking for and performed the way everyone had predicted during pre-season talks.
Hugo Boumous and Adam Le Fondre showed the kind of partnership that could make their opponents fearful further into the season. Mumbai City scored their first goal in the 20th minute when Le Fondre tapped in after some brilliant work from Boumous and Rowllin Borges. Their second goal came early in the second half when Boumous earned a penalty and Le Fondre stepped up to convert it. The third one was a wonderous strike from Hernan Santana after a brilliant first-time volley from Boumous and the three goals gave Mumbai City FC the important three points to take them joint-top of the table.
Here are the five talking points from the match:
WHEN BOUMOUS IS IN FORM, SO IS MUMBAI CITY FC
Boumous, on Tuesday, set the pitch on fire with his performance. In the first two games when Mumbai City FC struggled to find their rhythm, the Frenchman was not in the best of his form. With the display that he put up against East Bengal and the corresponding result for Mumbai proved how dependent the team is on him.
Boumous was at the heart of each of the goals that Mumbai scored and his work rate, movement and trickery on the pitch troubled East Bengal all night long. Boumous' two assists made him the Indian Super League's top assist-maker, surpassing Marcelinho. If Boumous continues to be the threat he was to East Bengal, every opponent will have to concentrate on restricting him.
LE FONDRE ANNOUNCES HIMSELF
Le Fondre is now the joint-top scorer of ISL 2020-21 with three goals after his three matches. Jamshedpur FC's Nerijus Valskis is on top as he has scored three goals in two games. Le Fondre's brace on Monday showed his predatory instincts, his brilliant movement and his composure and with that, he announced that he was here to stay.
The first goal that Le Fondre scored was a tap-in but it was his movement for that goal that showed how good he is. Mumbai's first goal was a classic counter-attack that came from an East Bengal corner. Le Fondre was on defensive duty for the corner when Borges cleared the ball from the right with a stunning diagonal pass to Boumous, who was the only one upfront. By the time Boumous danced past his marker and drew the goalkeeper, Le Fondre had covered almost the entirety of the pitch to be just in time for the tap-in.
After the match, Le Fondre credited Boumous for the move and said he was happy to be able to finish such moves. "I have played all my career at No.9. I am known to get into the box. Great work by Hugo and I just finished that. Delighted to be able to finish those kinds of moves," he said.
EAST BENGAL LACKING CUTTING EDGE IN FINAL THIRD
East Bengal are not a bad team - that was established even after their defeat to ATK Mohun Bagan in their season opener. However, there was to be no improvement on that statement even after their second game as they were crushed by Mumbai City FC.
East Bengal are keeping the ball - their ball possession was 46 per cent to Mumbai City FC's 54 per cent. Yet, they did not have a single shot on target at the end of the match. East Bengal have good quality in Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma and Surchandra Singh in the midfield but none are able to repeatedly make those deadly final passes. On top of that, Balwant Singh as the only strike option is simply inadequate.
Jeje Lalpekhlua made his maiden appearance for East Bengal against Mumbai City FC and showed promise. But East Bengal would need a lot more decisiveness, clarity and pace in the final third to trouble defences in the ISL.
EAST BENGAL NEED TO CHANGE SYSTEM?
In their first game, East Bengal played with a three-man defence and even though they started with a four-man backline against Mumbai, Daniel Fox's injury meant they didn't have adequate reinforcement and had to go for three defenders again. In both these games, they were beaten when the teams counter-punched, went up in numbers or used the wing.
Losing Fox early on against Mumbai proved to be detrimental for East Bengal as they were stretched every single time Mumbai attacked with pace. Bipin Singh used his pace while Boumous used him exemplary skills to repeatedly stretch East Bengal's defenders and with their captain not there to guide them, they struggled to deal with Mumbai's attacking prowess.
After the match, East Bengal coach Robbie Fowler said he may look to change the system. "We'll assess Danny and gauge the situation. Formation-wise, we are open to all the options. We've got a choice of players who can play in a few positions. We will work on the training part, we know what we need to do to get results and we've all got the attitude and temperament to try and get them. I will be changing formations and players. I think it's fairly obvious that there might be a few changes in terms of personnel and we'll work on a few things as we always do."
MUMBAI CITY FC'S BENCH
The XI that started the match against SC East Bengal saw Bipin Singh come in place of Farukh Choudhary. Also with Hernan Santana being slotted as one of the centre-backs, Sarthak Golui was benched and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy got a start.
Bartholomew Ogbeche has been coming off the bench with Adam Le Fondre starting as No.9 for all the three matches. Japanese Cy Goddard has also been a strength for Mumbai as a starter or off the bench.
The number of changes Mumbai are able to make in their both their starting line-ups and for substitutions shows their bench strength and if everyone can stay fit throughout the season, Mumbai can be a very solid outfit.