A Tale of Momos, Vada Pao, and the Chutney: NorthEast United FC 0 – 2 Mumbai City FC Review

Goals Make All the Difference Just Like Chutney Makes All the Difference

I don’t like the new trend of momos with mayonnaise. It’s silly. It takes away the edge of that dish. Without its red chutney, momos are basically boiled chicken in steamed flour. You enjoy the chicken but the bite is missing, if you know what I mean. NorthEast United FC were like that in this game. They attacked but they had no finish to them. I like vada pao too. Like momos, vada pao also get their bite from the red chutney. Mumbai City FC had that garlicky chutney. With that spice and that edge, they won this game.

Both these teams came into this game having lost their last respective games. NorthEast United had bitten dust against Kerala Blasters FC while Mumbai City had tasted defeat against ATK. They both lost with the same score line too i.e. 1 – 0. So the problem for both teams was that of getting goals. Mumbai City dealt with their problem better.

Three Plates of NorthEast United Momos without Satisfaction

You can have loads of momos in one plate. Without chutney they all fall flat. NorthEast United had loads of attack in this game. Without their finishing they fell flat. It was like I was given three plates of momos and told to have them with nothing but that darn mayonnaise. I’d rather starve. I’d rather go for a single vada pao with that garlic red chutney in it.

Scoring goals has been a problem for NEUTD from the very beginning of this season. For some reason, their coach Joao de Deus didn’t try to address that problem in this game through tactics. Instead, he tried to address it through personnel. He brought in Luis Paez for Cezario.

While I rate Paez over Cezario, I do think that NEUTD need to change their tactics to score the goals they need. Long balls and crosses targeted at the big men will only take you so far in modern football. You can’t follow the traditional strategy of hacking the ball forward and running after it like your ass is on fire because you drank momo chutney on a dare from your sniggering buddy. That strategy will end in a lot pain and stink. Always.

I take exception to how NEUTD deal with their problems. Their solution to every opponent is to lob one forward. It is such a monochromic strategy that even schoolboys will know how to beat it. All you do is put your tallest people at the back and ask the shorter ones to orbit them to pick up the loose balls.

Strategy is NEUTD’s problem. Consider this for example. After going a goal down de Deus brought on Cezario in the first half itself. That’s good. It shows intention. However, how do they play with Cezario and Paez both on the pitch? They shunt Paez to the wings and toss long ones forward to Cezario.

When they can’t toss long ones, they fall over at the drop of a hat (looking at you Marcinho) to gain a free kick so they can toss long ones from them. Everything is about tossing long ones. Where is the skill? Where’s the technique? What happened to tactics?

Mumbai City’s Vada Pao with Punjabi Chutney

Mumbai City also came into this game with the problem of no chutney. But, they whipped up a new one with Punjabi masala (everyone knows Punjabis like their spice) a la Balwant Singh. Just look how Alexandre Guimares shuffled things about to have an impact.

He brought in the nippy Sanju Pradhan in place of the suspended Sehnaj Singh and pulled back Achille Emana into a more conventional midfield role. He replaced Rafael Jorda with the more creative and dribbly Thiago Santos. He put Sanju on the right wing, Thiago in the hole, Everton Santos on the left wing, and Balwant Singh in the central forward position. Boy, did this tweak pay off for Guimares. Balwant ended up with a brace in this game and both goals came because of his attacking instinct.

Incidentally, the Mumbai City formation is the one I describe above. If you want to question me with what is shown on the Indian Super League website, then desist and stop being a sour Karela. That website shows wrong formations in games all the time. I don’t know who the admin is there, but he is nothing but a common admi as opposed to being someone who knows football.

Mumbai City’s strategy in this game was simple. They absorbed pressure because they knew NEUTD couldn’t do jack with the ball and countered when they stole it. Their attacks were concerted and very steady. They didn’t lump the ball into the forward position. Instead, they dribbled, got their markers to commit, and released the ball.

It’s not like they didn’t use their wingers. They did. They just required them to dribble inside and pass inside. Their best player on the day, though, was their central midfielder – Gerson Vieira. He did very well in the midfield general role. He controlled the midfield, helped organise the team, and launched attacks too. Hats off!

The Big Bad NorthEast United Wolf Huffed and Puffed….

To be fair to NorthEast United, they started the game better than their opponents but guess what. That was when they were attacking centrally. Their best chance came when Marcinho hit the post in the third minute. How did he do it? He stole the ball (good), dribbled towards the penalty box (great), got three defenders to commit (see my point?), and released the ball in the form if a shot (wonderful sequence of play).

That was the best moment of the half for me. The rest of the half was shorn of any kind of quality. Even Balwant’s goal near the end of first half was a result of an error from the debutant Ravi Kumar. He came out when he didn’t need to. He came too far out in fact when his defenders could’ve done the job. All that Balwant had to do was slide the ball under the oncoming Kumar and he did that for the opening goal.

Why do I think the first half was Both teams kept giving the ball away. Mumbai City kept trying to counter but their misplaced passes kept letting them down. NorthEast United kept trying to bypass the midfield without any solid results. On top of this Mumbai City kept fouling to break up play and maintain parity. The main culprit in blue was Lucian Goian but the entire team is prone to fouling a lot. Consider the fact that there are 5 Mumbai City FC players in the top 7 foulers in the league.

Balwant Singh and Two Vada Paos

By the second half, Balwant Singh had established himself as the offside king of Indian football. I don’t exactly know how many times he was caught offside but I’m sure he was in double figures by the time the game ended. In fact, since offsides are fouls, Balwant Singh has now become the player with most fouls in the league. He has a total of 22.

Despite all of that, he was onside when it mattered. It was him who doubled Mumbai City’s lead. Yet again, it was a mistake from NorthEast United. The sequence had two mistakes – one was a bad pass and the second was a bad first tough. The bad pass was a back pass from Seiminlen Doungel to Rowllin Borges that wasn’t really on because Borges was under pressure.

However, Borges went one better. When he should’ve cleared the ball, he decided to control it. He was pressed and dispossessed by Emana who ran into the box. The keeper came out for what was essentially a two on one and was beaten as Emana squared the ball to Balwant Singh for a tap in.

By the end of the 90, NorthEast United had fired so many duds and blanks that they went limp. They must now be in dire need of some musli power. I think I’ll collect all the numbers on Delhi autos and forward them to the Highlanders. Delhi has a lot of experts in limp bizkits.