Khalid has now managed to gain the upper hand over coaches like Owen Coyle, Antonio Habas and Sergio Lobera…
Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai city has only fallen twice in the current Indian Super League (ISL) so far and both setbacks have come against the most unlikely of oppositions – NorthEast United.
Following the debacle of their first game of the season, the Islanders were on a 12-game unbeaten streak (nine wins and three draws) before facing NorthEast United on Saturday and so, naturally, the odds were in Mumbai’s favor. But the performance of Khalid Jamil’s team came as a big surprise for the top-flight Mumbai team.
The Highlanders faced off against the league leaders from the start and managed to do something no other team in the league had managed to do against Mumbai before this game. They scored twice in 10 minutes and took the game away alongside Lobera.
Khalid Jamil’s teams are not generally known for playing an attacking style of football and especially when his team are not favorites for a tie. But this season, the Mumbai-based coach has emerged in a new ‘avatar’. Since the former coach of Aizawl FC took the helm of this side from Gerard Nus, the outlook for the team in the matches has changed completely.
Before Jamil took over, NorthEast had managed to win just two of the 11 games they had played and had drawn six. Under Nudes, the team often lacked creativity up front and lacked ideas more often than not. But the Indian head coach, since taking office, has been a breath of fresh air.
Jamil has continuously deployed both Federico Gallego and Luis Machado, who are arguably the most creative players on this squad. This is something that has only happened twice in 11 Naked games.
Machado and Gallego together add the much needed flair to the team’s attack. Another player who has discovered himself since joining the club recently is Jamaican striker Deshorn Brown. The former Bengaluru FC player, 30, jumped out of the ship at the January window and joined the Highlanders.
Brown has already scored three goals in as many matches and is a completely different player from what he was at Bengaluru. He looks confident in front of goal and shows his poaching abilities inside the box.
The Highlanders were arguably the better of both camps on the night, but it wasn’t just because of their offense. Having taken the two-goal lead early in the game, they did just as well while defending their lead for the remainder of the game.
With Belgian defender Benjamin Lambot back in the starting XI, the end line seemed tight and not even once it lost form. In front of the back row, Khassa Camara and Lalengmawia also delivered a stellar performance. Camara was instrumental in disrupting the movements of Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous in the middle and the young Indian midfielder supported him with talent.
On the side of Sergio Lobera. as usual, had more ball throughout the game and played many passes between them. They created chances in the second half by overloading the Northeast half, but their commitment to defend against the Highlander meant Mumbai could only find solace thanks to Adam the Melt’s innovative strike.
The northeast is to be credited for continuing to attack Mumbai even though it was under tremendous pressure.
Mumbai’s dominance has faltered since the East Bengal game last week and the result against NorthEast will come as a wake-up call for them. There is no room for complacency in a league like ISL and if Lobera is to win his elusive league title, he has to make sure it is just an anomaly.