Mumbai City, 10 games unbeaten, in the seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) after a goalless draw against Hyderabad on Saturday.
The result meant the Islanders were denied a fifth straight win. The draw doesn’t pose too much of a problem for Sergio Lobera’s side who remain six points clear at the top of the table, but what it does is once again show the quality of the Nizams in their team.
Hyderabad has had a tough preseason not only because of the coronavirus pandemic, but also because their plans had to be changed due to a late change in head coach. The master plan for the 2020-21 ISL season was created with Albert Roca at the helm, but the former blunderer from Bengaluru left the club to join FC Barcelona as a fitness coach.
But they still managed to put together a strong squad and Manuel Marquez has yet to disappoint with his astute management of the team. He had missed several foreign players at the start of the season due to injuries, but the Indian talent stood out.
And it was the Indian players who impressed and helped end the dangerous attack on the city of Mumbai. Hitesh Sharma delivered a solid display in midfield, Mohammed Yasir was always available to receive the ball and Liston Colaco had the flair that kept the Mumbai City defenders on their toes.
The most impressive displays came from Hyderabad full-backs Asish Rai and Akash Mishra. Both made names for their marauding runs in the final third under Marquez’s fluid system and were also solid at the back when faced with tricky wingers.
Mishra, 19, in particular, was heavily involved in the game against the league leaders. He not only effectively dealt with Cy Goddard on the left flank, but also gave Amey Ranawade a tough time during the 90 minutes. Rai, on the other hand, kept Bipin Singh and Mandar Rao Dessai relatively calm.
These two players are knocking on the doors of the Indian national team and it would not be surprising to see at least Mishra, who has played every minute of Hyderabad games this season, don the Blue Tigers kit in the near future.
Lobera chose to rest Hugo Boumous, who has been stellar in the last few matches, but that can’t be an excuse not to create enough clear chances and finish them off when they have created such chances. Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh, with the help of their full-backs, were able to cut the wings of Mumbai and control the races of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam Le Fondre.
Ahmed Jahouh fell deeper than usual looking for space to throw balls forward and Hyderabad had a man follow with the midfielder whenever he tried to create room to make a past. The game plan worked.
Hyderabad did enough to keep Mumbai City away from their goal, but the Islanders had too much quality to be defeated with just the good performances of the Indian players. They needed more of their foreigners to truly be the dominant force against such a strong opponent, but the goalless draw offers confidence for the games to come.