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Sergio Lobera has found a way to make it work …
In December, when Mumbai City was in the hands of a 10-man Jamshedpur, the conclusion was that Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche could not play together in Sergio Lobera’s team.
The comment made sense. The Nigerian forward, who had become the all-time top scorer at Kerala Blasters and joined the Islanders in the summer, looked rusty and was at fault for missing several key opportunities in a game that Mumbai could and should have. won.
For a while, it seemed like the former PSG striker would have to be a spectator as his team progressed to a title. However, Ogbeche has not only managed to turn his season around, but Lobera has also managed to fit the two forwards into his starting lineup if the game calls for such an attack.
Ogbeche scored two goals in the first six games of this season. But since the turn of the year, he has scored six goals and now has a total of eight goals and two assists in eight starts. In four of his eight starts, he was paired with Le Fondre in the lineup.
Initially, it seemed that playing the two forwards together would remain an unsolved problem for Lobera in his first season with the City Football Group-owned club. However, the biggest indication Lobera found a solution to the striker puzzle came in the final game of the league stage, in what was arguably the biggest game of the season in Bombay.
The Islanders posted a 2-0 victory that included an Ogbeche goal against ATK Mohun Bagan and claimed the League Winners Shield and a place in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
“They (Ogbeche and Le Fondre) can play together. But each game is different, the context is different. They are very good players with good experience,” Lobera had said after his team defeated Odisha 6-1 in their penultimate match. of the league stage.
The fact that Ogbeche and Le Fondre can be integrated into the same starting lineup bodes well for the team heading into the playoffs against Lobera’s former employers FC Goa. And Ogbeche, with his performances in 2021, has certainly made the decision extremely difficult. Both Ogbeche (8 goals, two assists) and Le Fondre (11 goals, 1 assist) have similar goal contributions for Mumbai City this season.
When the two forwards are paired up early, it is observed that they often make room for each other thanks to their smart runs. More importantly, Le Fondre is not averse to playing in a slightly withdrawn role behind Ogbeche and taking on playmaking duties from time to time. That versatility is also one of the reasons the two have been able to play together.
“I feel like I should have played more? I always want to play every game, but we have a boss who is the coach, and he has to make decisions. So if I haven’t played more, it’s not because I haven’t.” well done, “Ogbeche had said before his last game of the season.
Lobera has a decision to make, one that could play an important role in the big game against the Gaurs.