Sergio Lobera deserved the accolade after being in Indian football for four years now…
If there is one coach in Indian football in recent times who deserves to win accolades it has to be Sergio Lobera and on Sunday, the Spaniard finally got to touch silverware after spending four seasons in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Lobera had come agonisingly close to win his maiden title last season with FC Goa only to part ways with the club just three matches before the league stage ended. Goa eventually won the League Winners Shield title but it was interim coach Clifford Miranda whose name got associated with the trophy in the history books.
But the Spanish coach finally did it with Mumbai City as they got the better of ATK Mohun Bagan in their final league match of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season.
In Hugo Boumous’ absence, Lobera once again fielded both his strikers Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam Le Fondre, the latter deployed in the hole behind the Nigerian forward.
The former FC Barcelona youth coach who is known for his possession-based attack style of play has incorporated some changes in his approach this season. Mumbai City, on several occasions this season, have not really played the all-out attacking approach Lobera is known for.
Against ATK Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City took a rather pragmatic approach and instead of outplaying the Mariners by keeping possession of the ball, they focused on keeping their backline compact and making the most of the set-pieces they got. In fact, both goals came from dead-ball situations.
Antonio Habas’ side of late have been scoring early in games (especially against Odisha FC and Bengaluru FC) but Mumbai never really gave them that opportunity to take control of the match in their hands. Also, Hernan Santana did an exceptional job in keeping the Mariners’ most lethal weapon Roy Krishna silent for the entirety of the game.
Midfielder Ahmed Jahouh was also at his very best after a long time. The Moroccan commanded proceedings at centre of the park by contributing both in attack as well as defence. Adam Le Fondre too was often seen tracking back deep into his own half especially in the second to keep a check on the relentless attacks of ATK Mohun Bagan.
Habas fielded his side in a 3-4-3 formation with Manvir Singh and Pritam Kotal starting on the right and left wing-back positions respectively. Carl McHugh had to track back to form the three-man backline alongside Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri.
The Mariners received a major blow in the first itself when Jhingan limped out of the pitch with seemingly a hamstring injury. With the India international out of action and Tiri’s poor form, it was always going to be difficult for the Kolkata club to counter Mumbai City’s much-famed attack force.
Also with Pronay Halder partnering Lenny Rodrigues at the centre of the park, the creativity was missing in their midfield. The front three of David Williams, Roy Krishna and Marcelinho hardly received any proper pass in the first half. It was only after Edu Garcia took the field in the second half, the distributing from the midfield started.
Lobera tactically outfoxed Antonio Habas and the latter did not have any plan ‘B’ to counter the Mumbai coach’s move. Except for a few matches in between, Mumbai City were more or less the most dominant side in the league and it was only fair that the title of the champions of the league stage when to them.