ISL: An all-Indian forward line puts Mumbai ahead

A goal from Bipin Singh and an own goal from Shubham Sharangi allowed Mumbai City FC to emerge victorious from the Mumbai Football Arena in an ISL game against Odisha FC on Saturday. What was remarkable about their win was how they used three strikers up front in Bipin, Vikram Pratap Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte, all of whom have either played for the national team or will join them in the coming seasons

One of the facets of ISL that has angered national coaches in the past is that Indian players are rarely used in key positions on the pitch. Often, ISL teams ran out with foreign players in the centre-back, midfield and attacking positions. But Mumbai using Indian players for crucial points on the pitch is a change that can only help if those players end up going to national camps and international tournaments.

​Mumbai City FC manager Des Buckingham detailed his use of the three strikers in the post-match press conference following yesterday’s win over Odisha FC. We have Vikram, Chhangte and Bipin, they all have different abilities. It’s so important as we progress through the season.

“The beauty of having three with different abilities is when we play against different teams. Each of them will be very important. When a team wants to put us under pressure, we know we have the pace to follow. When a team wants to drop deeper, we know we have tricky ball players. It just gives us different options that we want to use right at the start or throughout the game,” Buckingam said.

​Mumbai also played in midfield against Apuia Ralte while Vinit Rai waited on the touchline. Ralte recently completed a two-week training stint with Belgian club Lommel SK. Lommel is part of the City Football Group portfolio and the young Indian midfielder has had the opportunity to play at a higher pace than he is used to in the Indian Super League or national team. The 21-year-old midfielder has already made 10 appearances for India and had a successful season with Mumbai City FC in the Asian Champions League, where he anchored midfield against Middle Eastern sides with taller, more physical midfielders able to break through on the ball quickly.

​“The way we play, we have good midfielders. But first of all, if we can make room for them, that’s the important role of our wingers,” said Buckingham.

This was Mumbai’s first game in a couple of seasons to involve fans. The pandemic had previously prevented ISL teams from playing home games as a closed-door tournament was held in Goa



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