JFC Show Teeth; MCFC Show Grit: Jamshedpur FC 2 – 2 Mumbai City FC Review

JFC Find Cutting Edge; Promptly Lose Defensive Solidity

Jamshedpur FC would regret this result. Not because they didn’t play well but because they almost had that elusive first home win. Jamshedpur FC messed up on what they’ve been so good at since the beginning of the season – defence. After having gone down a goal, they actually managed to take the lead only to blow it in the end. Mumbai City FC, in contrast, now have the ignominious honour of conceding as many goals to JFC as seven other teams in the league. Tsk tsk…

Jamshedpur FC and Their Eternal Dilemma

If The Furnace is the name you claim for your stadium, you need to be able to turn up the heat for your opponents. Jamshedpur FC, unfortunately, haven’t really been turning it on in attack. Instead, they’ve been teetering on the edge of finding that perfect balance between defence and attack. In all their earlier games, they’ve had excellent defence but couldn’t muster the goals. In this game, they mustered the goals but to do that they compromised on defence.

Not only have Jamshedpur FC been low on goals, they’ve been low on shots too. So, it’s not like they’ve been unlucky in front of goal all this while. They’ve just been poor in attack. Steve Coppell, finally took cognisance of his team’s attacking limitations in this game by bringing in a new face in the form of the Nigerian Izu Azuka (Japanese roots, you think?).

Azuka’s inclusion meant that Kervens Belfort had to vacate the primary striker’s role. It’s not like he was enjoying himself anyway. He moved to the flanks but the interesting bit was that Coppell gave Belfort the freedom to roam and made him a key attacking outlet.

While Belfort was technically placed on the left flank, he was all over the pitch from the get go. In the first ten minutes, I actually noted Belfort in all attacking positions including striker, right flank, left flank, and shadow striker/attacking midfielder. The move worked for Coppell’s side as they gained a never before seen attacking edge. They caused Mumbai City a lot of trouble with this little change.

Along with this change, Coppell also asked his full backs to push on further. The only problem was that he had full backs and not wing backs. His full backs pushed forward but they kept moving inside as opposed to overlapping. This overcrowded the middle and made it easier for MCFC to defend.

In contrast, every time JFC attacked with width, they got a chance. The best example of this was Jerry Mawhmingthanga with his penalty claim early on. Jerry dribbled in from the wide right position only for Lucian Goian to take him down. It was a good shout for penalty that probably should’ve been given but wasn’t.

In fact, he-whose-surname-must-not-be-pronounced was JFC’s standout performer in this game. His runs were near perfect and his deliveries were very dangerous for MCFC throughout the game. While the goal scorer got the Man of the Match, for me it was Jerry who should’ve gotten it. He was THAT good.

Jerry was also helped by JFC’s focus on the right flank. JFC kept attacking down their right flank probably because they had pinpointed Abinash Ruidas as the weak link in MCFC defence. It proved to be a good decision too mainly because Sanju Pradhan refused to back his teammate down that flank.

Mumbai City FC’s Pragmatism

If you’re going to a stadium called The Furnace, it is a good thing that your primary style of play is safety first. For Mumbai City FC, the visit to play Jamshedpur FC in their home ground was either going to end in a smash and grab or a goalless draw. It was neither. Whaddaya know!

MCFC have always been pragmatic in how they approach their games. It doesn’t even matter whether they’re at home or away. However, they focus on safety first especially in their away games. In this, they had their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with emphasis on counterattacking.

Their attack, however, was stunted throughout the game. This was because MCFC insisted on balls over the top of the JFC defence. They wanted to connect with Balwant Singh. JFC did well to nullify Balwant Singh and his runs off the back of their defence.

Balwant Singh wasn’t as useless as you may think looking at his stats from this game. What most people won’t realise, though, is that JFC’s focus on Balwant Singh resulted in MCFC getting their two goals. All the attention that the JFC defence put on Singh meant openings for Thiago Santos who ended up scoring two goals for MCFC. His second goal is the perfect proof of this. And that brings me to the goals.

Izu Azuka Shows Up Belfort

Belfort must be feeling like a regular chump today after Azuka showed him how to be a striker. To be fair to Belfort, though, I don’t think he is a striker at heart. He just doesn’t have the efficiency. He will pull tricks to beat his marker but he does that so single-mindedly that he forgets where the goal is. Most of his shots have been from long range and most of those have been skied.

Azuka’s inclusion in the starting line-up was an excellent decision from Coppell and probably should’ve been done two to three games earlier. Both of Azuka’s goals showed his striker’s instinct. He scored them both because he was in the right place at the right time.

His first goal brought JFC level with MCFC. It was a scrap of a goal too but it came because Jerry went outside of his marker on the right flank as opposed to inside. He crossed the ball down below onto the penalty spot. Belfort actually got to the ball before Azuka but scuffed his shot (does this surprise you?). The ball fell to Azuka who poked it in.

Azuka’s second goal was a better example of his poaching instincts. It came again via a Jerry cross from the right that Azuka met first time. His finish wasn’t important. What was important was his run into the box. It was perfectly timed and in just the right place. With those goals, I think Azuka has earned himself at least two more starts for Jamshedpur FC.

Thiago Santos Earns MCFC a Point

Despite how much JFC dominated this game in terms of possession and chances, it was MCFC who took the lead. They did it because of a moment of magic from Thiago Santos. It was as solo a goal as you’ll see anywhere.

Santos picked up the ball at the edge of the box and dribbled into its heart. He had five defenders in front of him and he beat the three who tried to tackle him. He ended the run with a well-placed shot into the far corner leaving Subrata Paul rooted in his spot. That run cannot be described in words. I suggest you look up the highlights.

Even though MCFC took the lead, they were a goal down by the end of the first half. They only levelled because of their Santos connection. MCFC started the second half quite tepidly. They weren’t attacking or dominating. There was no urgency. It was JFC who were dominating again. But MCFC showed their efficiency again.

The equaliser came the moment MCFC decided to attack. It came as Everton Santos ran down the MCFC right flank to the base line and whipped in a cross into the box behind him. Thiago Santos had made a late run into the box and was completely unmarked. He finished first time and the goal wasn’t all that different from Azuka’s second.

That was the last of the action in the game as you could see that both teams were slowing down. The problem was fitness related as the games have come thick and fast recently. Besides, I’m sure everyone had been partying on 31st. The human body takes a while to process that kind of booze. Just ask sports bloggers the world over… Do you know any?