Mumbai hosted its first 2017-18 Indian Super League game on Saturday, with the home side taking on FC Goa at the Mumbai Football Arena. With the competition having already produced a couple of thrillers, there was a similar expectation heading into the maiden clash this season. Having lost their opening game against Bengaluru FC, the Islanders would have been looking forward to play at home, where they found immense success last season.
As is the case before every season, the team had undergone massive changes prior to the tournament. There were a few fresh faces and the absence of household names like Sunil Chettri, Diego Forlan or Sony Norde had resulted in the franchise losing some of its appeal. Despite this, the crowd certainly showed up for the opening game.
Before the game, just outside the ground, fans could indulge themselves in a game of foosball or play one-touch in a separate corner. They could get themselves clicked with the giant posters of the players or next to the huge ‘Made in Mumbai’ light-up. An appetiser to get people excited before the game.
The ground itself is not the most attractive setting when you compare it to grounds such as Wankhede Stadium and DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. Apart from the Premium and VIP stands, the rest have concrete seating. So despite a big turnout, chances are that you will see pockets of spaces between groups sitting together. If the club has to be considered the football representative of the city, the ground needs an upgrade. However, the ground’s location which is in the heart of the Mumbai suburbs and easily accessible via public transport is a huge plus.
Possibly the big relief for most fans was the decent pricing of refreshments at the ground. If you have been to the U-17 World Cup games or any of the cricket matches, IPL or international played in Mumbai, the exorbitant pricing at the food and beverage counters is off-putting. At the Mumbai Football Arena, you won’t feel the burn.
The usual story in a football game is the away side’s chants are subdued and scattered while the home supporters register the highest decibel ratings. That certainly was not the case on Saturday night. FC Goa supporters were vibrant and an equal match to the hosts. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that it might be the case when other sides travel here, especially ATK, Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) November 25, 2017
As far as the on-field action was concerned, it was not the most thrilling encounter in the first-half but the pace picked up in the latter stages. The initial battle was concentrated in midfield, with Goa dominating possession. The second-half produced a much better performance from the hosts. The intensity from the forward line was high, which resulted in them taking the lead by forcing a mistake from the keeper Laxmikant Kattimani. Goa equalised through a well-worked play in the 82nd minute after a horrible error from the linesman had denied them a deserved goal in the 66th minute. But Mumbai edged ahead in the 89th minute thanks to a wonderfully crafted move from the back and substitute Thiago Dos Santos finished the play with a low finish from a tight angle. Mumbai registered their first points in the league and continue to dominate at home.
While the city was thrilled to see their opening fixture on Saturday, expect bigger crowds for upcoming games, especially the ones against Kerala Blasters and ATK – the most popular franchises of the ISL.