Mumbai City FC reached their first Indian Super League (ISL) final after beating FC Goa 6-5 on penalties in the second leg of the semi-final at the GMC Stadium on Monday.
It was the first time in the ISL that a playoff match was decided via penalties.
Both coaches chose to substitute their goalkeepers with the match heading into the penalty shootout. Goa brought on Naveen Kumar while Mumbai raised some eyebrows when they decided to field Phurba Lachenpa in place of captain Amrinder Singh, one of the best goalkeepers of the season. But, as it turned out to be, the Sikkimese gloveman survived the battle of nerves, helping Sergio Lobera’s team book a place in the final for the first time.
The first leg of the semi-final had ended in a 2-2 draw and with there being no away goal rule this season, the teams had to start from scratch on Monday. Goa remained in the ascendance with Mumbai failing to register a single shot on target throughout the match. The first half proved to be a cagey affair with neither side able to assert their dominance.
However, the best chance of the game arrived in the 27th minute, for Goa but Mumbai’s backline stood tall. Alberto Noguera beat his marker and made his way into the box before firing a shot at goal that was parried away by Amrinder. The ball eventually fell in the path of Redeem Tlang whose first-time effort was blocked by Amey Ranawade.
Despite failing to test Goa goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, Mumbai missed an opportunity to open the scoring during the closing stages of the first half after winning a free-kick in a dangerous position. Ahmed Jahouh found Hugo Boumous outside the box, who blazed his effort over the crossbar.
Goa made one change at the half-time break with Ishan Pandita coming on for Redeem Tlang and the substitution sparked energy in their attack as the Gaurs were clearly the better side in the second half.
They created a good opportunity just minutes after the restart. Alexander Jesuraj received Saviour Gama’s cutback and fired a shot that seemed to be heading to the net but Amrinder made a crucial save with his fingertips to push the ball towards the post and out for a corner.
Amrinder soon made another clever save to deny Goa. After Adil Khan blocked Adam Le Fondre’s effort, Goa launched a quick counter-attack and Jesuraj drilled a low cross inside the box for Pandita whose diving header was kept out by the Mumbai custodian.
Goa kept pushing for a winner and could’ve ended the contest in injury time, had it not been for James Donachie missing a gilt-edged opportunity. Edu Bedia aimed his free-kick at the far post but the defender failed to connect, missing the ball by inches.
In extra added time, Mumbai were lucky not to concede after an error. Pandita pounced on a poor backpass from Hernan Santana but Amrinder snuffed out the danger in time.
The shootout initially looked to be headed Mumbai’s way after Goa missed their first two penalties. But Mumbai then missed a couple themselves, restoring parity. Finally, after Glan Martins had missed his kick, Rowllin Borges stepped to drive home the winning penalty and sent his team to the final.
Bartholomew Ogbeche, Raynier Fernandes, Amey Ranawade, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Dessai were on target during the shootout after which Rowllin Borges scored the winner for the League Winners’ Shield holders. Igor Angulo, Ivan Gonzalez, Ishan Pandita, Jorge Ortiz and Adil Khan scored for FC Goa.
The ISL final will be played on Saturday at the Fatorda Stadium. Mumbai will face either NorthEast United or ATK Mohun Bagan, who are set to play the second of their semi-final tie on Tuesday.