ISL: Sergio ‘Lobera Ball’ on display as Mumbai city continues to dominate Bangalore

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Mumbai City is on an eight-game unbeaten streak …

Expectations were through the roof when Sergio Lobera replaced Jorge Costa as the head coach of the city of Mumbai ahead of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season.

It was not like any other management change. It was a transition to a new and expensive philosophy that had proven to be a success in Indian football. It was also a declaration of intent from the club owned by the City Football Group (CFG).

The Islanders lost their first game of the season to NorthEast United, but Lobera’s team managed to rebound in style. They are currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak and sit at the top of the ISL table at the end of matchday nine.

But there were some questions about the Lobera islanders that went unanswered. But on Tuesday, they outscored Bengaluru with a 3-1 victory in a way that served as a strong reminder to all skeptics about the team’s ability to perform in big games.

The ease with which the islanders achieved victory against Bengaluru was impressive. While Bengaluru is usually a tough opponent for any team to face, Mumbai City has had the upper hand in matches between the two teams in the last two seasons. The Blues haven’t won against the Islanders in the past two seasons and Lobera has kept that tradition alive.

Carles Cuadrat’s team is also known for being very good at set pieces, but Mumbai nullified that threat quite easily. Two of the three goals scored by Mumbai came from set pieces, which worries the Bengaluru coach and pleases Lobera, whose game plan was perfectly executed by his players.

Mumbai City Mouinada Fall

Lobera brought quite a few FC Goa players with him and while they have all adapted perfectly to the setup, what is even more remarkable is the improvement the other Indian players have made in all nine matches so far. Left-back Bipin Singh is one of many players who have benefited from Lobera’s arrival and the 25-year-old impressed again with a strong showing against the Blues that included a goal.

Mourtado Fall took advantage of Bengaluru’s poor defense during a corner kick to open the scoring. Mandar Rao Dessai turned over a ‘cross-season’ contender to assist Bipin’s first goal of the season, minutes later. Mumbai led 2-0 in less than 15 minutes.

After the referee thought that a tremendous tackle by Fall on Silva inside the box deserved punishment, the otherwise ineffective Sunil Chhetri gave his team a glimmer of hope from the spot. However, substitute Bartholomew Ogbeche headed the ball towards Gurpreet Sandhu from a corner and the keeper couldn’t hold the ball and conceded the third goal of the night.

Mumbai not only made Bengaluru’s attacking prowess seem non-existent, he also kept knocking on defense doors and threatened to score every time he advanced, especially in the first half. Changes to Bengaluru’s roster in terms of player departures, short preseason and adaptability have affected their pace.

As for Lobera, the drop in intensity after the break in the last matches would be a concern, as he would like to see the event come to an end. But from the very beginning that they have done, it seems that Mumbai City is on a fantastic journey.

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