Mumbai City continued their winless streak in Kerala but managed to nab a point in a 1-1 draw with Kerala Blasters. That point was earned courtesy of a last-minute goal by Pranjal Bhumij, which cancelled out Halicharan Nazary’s strike for the home side and gave the Islanders their first point of this ISL season. Kerala will feel hard done by, as they dominated the game while Mumbai City looked slow and lethargic, and we will now take a look at the tactical set-up from both sides during the match –


The two sides

Kerala lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Matej Poplatnik as the number 10 behind Slaviša Stojanović, and Sahaj Abdul Samaj anchoring midfield alongside the Serbian Nikola Krčmarević.

Mumbai City made a few changes from the 2-0 home defeat to Jamshedpur FC, with Sehnaj Singh coming into midfield along with Raynier Fernandes, and Arnold Issoko playing on the right wing. Marko Klisura was also replaced by Subashish Bose at the heart of the defence.

Mumbai’s defence needs to shape up

Jorge Costa’s arrival was supposed to help Mumbai tighten things up at the back, with the Portuguese coach well known for his ability to send out well-drilled, compact sides. However, there has been little sign of this so far in this ISL season, with Mumbai repeatedly caving into opposition attacks. This was seen in the home fixture against Jamshedpur and repeated itself at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Kerala Blasters looked far more energetic and purposeful, and they sliced through the Mumbai rearguard on numerous occasions, with only some poor finishing preventing them from putting the game to bed. Mumbai’s poor shape is evident here, in the build-up to the first goal –

The Mumbai defence has been pulled to the near side, with Chakraborty too far infield to track Narzary, who eventually ended up with a lot of time and space to rifle the ball into the net

Another issue was the lack of effective protection from midfield. Sehnaj was brought into the side as the defensive pivot due to his ability to break up opposition attacks, but he was bypassed far too easily by the Blasters’ midfield. An example of his poor positioning is shown below –

Sehnaj is caught ball watching, as he fails to mark Poplatnik; who only failed to score because he couldn’t get a clean strike on the cross from Narzary

All in all, Mumbai City were extremely lucky to come away with a point from this game, and one hopes that the international break has allowed Costa time to work on the training ground, as rapid improvement is needed from this side if they are to challenge for the playoffs.

Kerala’s midfield dominates

Mumbai City may have had more possession (56%) and played more passes than their opponents, but the Blasters’ were the more incisive of the two sides. Much of this was because of Kerala’s midfield, which imposed itself on the game and was constantly looking to play the ball forward. Matej Poplatnik had an important role to play here, as he constantly dropped away from the Mumbai centre-backs to receive the ball with his back to goal, before laying it off and spinning into space in behind –

Poplatnik drops deep here, drawing out the Mumbai defence and opening up space for a pass out wide or to the supporting player, who can now dart into the space vacated by the Slovenian

Stojanović and Poplatnik also formed a very effective two-man strikeforce at times, occupying both of Mumbai’s centre-backs and creating space for the likes of Narzary and Krčmarević –

See how both players are ahead of the ball and making runs into space either side of Lucian Goian

Mumbai need to change their attacking strategy

Mumbai City’s attacking strategy over the first two games of the season has been little more than trying to find Modou Sougou with a long ball over the top or into the channels; while this may work on occasion, it is fairly easy to defend against, and a lack of creativity from midfield is hampering the Islanders’ efforts to climb up the table. It was the same story against Kerala, as Mumbai attackers would find themselves isolated without a passing option in sight –

Issoko is completely isolated here, with no close passing options available. He ends up losing the ball and sparking a Kerala counter-attack

Their best chances came from set-pieces, and while Costa has downplayed comparisons to Jose Mourinho, on this evidence, his side is an almost exact copy of the Special One’s teams – albeit without the defensive resiliency. That is a worrying thought for the Mumbai faithful, and with the first ‘Maha’ derby of the season up next, Costa needs to come up with something more in order to kickstart Mumbai’s season.