Mumbai City in maiden ISL final after Sergio Lobera’s smart tactic shoots FC Goa out

Mumbai City FC edged out FC Goa on penalties in the semis. Lobera had managed FC Goa in the last three seasons.

By Utathya Nag

Mumbai City FC, on Monday, booked their spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 final after beating FC Goa via penalties in the second leg of their semi-final clash.

The first leg ended 2-2 and it was goalless until extra-time in the second after which the penalties separated the teams. 

In the decisive shootout, the Islanders came out on top 6-5 to head into their first-ever final. Rowllin Borges dispatched the winning spotkick for Mumbai City FC.

“I'm very happy because my players have produced a big effort. It's not easy to play 90 minutes, extra-time and then go into penalties. I am happy because these players deserve to play in the final,” MCFC coach Sergio Lobera said after the match.

For Lobera, in particular, it has been an emotional ride. The Spaniard oversaw FC Goa in the previous three seasons before shifting camps to Mumbai City FC for ISL 2020-21.

An ill-tempered first leg also added to the occasion with both sides exchanging verbal jibes in the media before the second leg.

One of the most interesting facets of the match was both teams substituting goalkeepers just before the shootout - a throwback to the famous tactical swap by former Dutch coach Louis van Gaal during Netherland's 2014 World Cup quarter-final win against Costa Rica.

While Goa played an experienced Naveen Kumar in place of young Dheeraj Singh, Lobera, curiously, brought on Phurba Lachenpa to replace Amrinder Singh.

Lobera's call was the more daring of the two, considering Amrinder Singh is one of India's premier custodians (second-choice for the Indian national football team behind Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) while Lachenpa's penalty duty during the crunch match actually marked his ISL debut.

The move, however, clicked and Lachenpa did well between the sticks under pressure.

“I want to congratulate the goalkeeper. We have three very good goalkeepers,” Lobera stated when he was asked to justify his call.

For the title decider, Mumbai City FC, who have already won the League Winners Shield this season, will face the winners of ATK Mohun Bagan versus NorthEast United FC.

Lobera, however, isn’t too concerned about who they face.

“I think ATK Mohun Bagan had an amazing season. And I want to congratulate the NorthEast United coach Khalid Jamil because he is a good example of how to do a coaching job here. The most important thing is we are going to play the final,” the Spanish gaffer noted.

FC Goa coach Juan Ferrando, meanwhile, said, “At the end after two games, it was very difficult. But I think the other team was good and I am happy with the performance. We are upset about the penalties but happy about the overall job.”

The Gaurs will need to brush off the disappointment soon and prepare for their historic AFC Champions League campaign – the first-ever for any Indian club - from April.

“Now it's very difficult because we are very tired and disappointed but tomorrow, we will wake up early and prepare the team for the Champions League pre-season. Hope we will be better tomorrow than we were today,” Ferrando concluded.

Lead photo: ISL Media