Road to semis: After League Winners Shield triumph, Mumbai City FC eye maiden final appearance

After qualifying for the semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) for the third time in the history of the club, the Islanders will be eager to go one better and make it to their first-ever final in the 2020-21 campaign. The team to beat for most of the league stage, Mumbai City FC showed that they were worthy of clinching the top spot and with it the League Winners Shield following a 2-0 victory over ATK Mohun Bagan in the last match of the league phase.

Hero ISL 2020-21’s biggest entertainers, the Islanders smashed six past Odisha FC in a 6-1 rout in their penultimate league stage match and are the leading goal-scorers in the league having netted 35 times so far. Here’s a closer look at their road to the semis in the ongoing campaign.

Matches played: 20, Points: 40, Wins: 12, Draws: 4, Losses: 4, Goals scored: 35, Goals conceded: 18, Clean sheets: 9

Top goal-scorer: Adam le Fondre (11 goals)

The Islanders’ journey to the semis wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, although they were in command for most of the campaign. After beginning the season with a surprising loss to NorthEast United FC, Sergio Lobera’s men proceeded to go on a 12-match unbeaten run which included three draws and nine victories. Their magnificent run of results was halted by the Highlanders as Mumbai City FC succumbed to their second loss against NorthEast United FC.

The defeat to the Highlanders seemed to rob them of some of their momentum as Lobera’s men went on to notch just one win from their next four games, losing two and drawing the other. The sequence of results severely dented their chances of finishing on top of the standings as they had to rely on other results to determine their table-topping fate in the last two matches of the season.

However, in what was a test of character, Mumbai City FC rose to the challenge and won their last two matches in style. After brushing aside Odisha FC 6-1 in a game that witnessed the only hat-trick of the season courtesy of Bipin Singh, who is playing with great confidence this season, the Islanders upstaged ATK Mohun Bagan in the last league stage match to clinch the League Winners Shield and secure a group stage spot in next year’s AFC Champions League.

Key players

While it’s safe to say that Mumbai City FC boast a plethora of stars who can prove the difference in games, a few players who have really stood out for them this season are strikers le Fondre (11 goals) and Bartholomew Ogbeche (8 goals). Hugo Boumous has been one of their biggest creative outlets with two goals and seven assists to show for his efforts, while Cy Goddard has stepped up when required with a goal and three assists. Not to mention, Bipin who has scored five goals besides providing four assists. In defence, Hernan Santana and Mourtada Fall have developed a good understanding besides also scoring two and three goals respectively. 

Looking ahead, the Islanders will be targeting something they haven’t managed to do in the club’s history so far. They will be aiming to qualify for their maiden appearance in the final of the Hero ISL. While their head coach Lobera and some of the players know what it’s like to take part in the final, that’s not the case for everyone in the squad and Mumbai City FC as a team.

Standing in their way in the semi-finals is an FC Goa side that they have beaten once and drawn with once this season. The last encounter between the teams witnessed them play out an entertaining 3-3 draw after the Gaurs rescued a last-gasp point. The Islanders though will fancy their chances when it comes to getting the better of FC Goa over two legs and will be favourites to qualify for their first-ever Hero ISL final.

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