ISL 2023-24: How Bheke, Chhangte and Mumbai City shut the door on FC Goa

Mumbai’s in-your-face approach against FC Goa in the ISL semifinal second leg was best illustrated by its skipper Rahul Bheke, who rendered Noah Sadaoui, Goa’s best player in attack, ineffective on the left wing.

Published : Apr 30, 2024 14:10 IST , Chennai - 4 MINS READ

Rahul Bheke (left) and Lallianzuala Chhangte in action.
Rahul Bheke (left) and Lallianzuala Chhangte in action. | Photo Credit: ISL

Rahul Bheke (left) and Lallianzuala Chhangte in action. | Photo Credit: ISL

“They were celebrating too much, let’s see what happens in Mumbai after the game.”

Manolo Marquez’s words sounded ominous for Mumbai City FC after FC Goa spectacularly collapsed in seven minutes in the death to lose 2-3 in the first leg of the ISL semifinal last week. But, in the end, there was no stopping Mumbai City.

Much of the build-up to the second leg was about how Goa would recover from the scars inflicted by Lallianzuala Chhangte and Co., which left the Goans shellshocked. And if Goa showed glimpses early on that it was up for it, the battle ultimately was lost on the pitch.

Mumbai City wouldn’t provide Goa even a glimmer of hope as its rival had offered in the away leg. With over 6000 Mumbai supporters standing over the Gaurs in the cauldron-like Andheri Sports Complex, the home team, too, cramped them for space all over the pitch and stifled any hopes of a Goan comeback.

Mumbai’s in-your-face approach was best illustrated by its skipper Rahul Bheke, who rendered Noah Sadaoui, Goa’s best player in attack, ineffective on the left wing. Sadaoui was bolted out of the game, every time he was on the ball by Bheke, who shifted over from center-back to right-back after six matches.

When Sadaoui looked to run in behind the Mumbai line, Bheke was there to keep up with him. When the Moroccan wanted to cut in from the left, Bheke shadowed him. When he looked to play a cross, Bheke closed him down and cut out the ball. Sadaoui did break away from Bheke once but this time, Tiri was in place to head the ball out of danger.

The only shot on goal Goa had the entire game was when Sadaoui switched to the right and forced a header in from a narrow angle. The blunted Sadaoui, who averaged over five shots a game in the league phase, was hooked in the 79th minute with Goa trailing by three goals on aggregate.

The defensive third of the pitch wasn’t the only place where Bheke would have an impact. The 33-year-old went up the other end and headed in a corner kick, which appeared to be over the line before the ball was brought back in play but Jorge Pereyra Diaz poked the ball into the net from close range.

And if Goa had any hopes of pulling off a miracle and returning the favour from the first leg, Chhangte’s dynamism and Mumbai’s counter-attacking threat kept the away side at arm’s length from posing any real threat.

While Bheke had the number on Sadaoui on the right flank, it was a different story on the opposite side of the pitch with Chhangte running rings around the inexperienced Jay Gupta. Gupta couldn’t keep up with the speed and movement of the India international.

Chhangte was influential in pushing the game deep into the Goan half and threatened to cut in from the right and score on multiple occasions. He struck the inside of the post in the opening half but got his goal in the 83rd minute when he was released by Vikram Partap Singh to run half the length of the pitch to score.


Gone are the days when Chhangte would fluff his chances from such opportunities. Here, he took four touches; one to get the ball into his stride, two to take it away from the goalkeeper and the tracking defender after using his strength to shield the ball, three to set himself up and four to tap the ball into an empty net and close the door on Goa. Dheeraj Singh would hate the sight of Chhangte each time he hurtles down his path after he had again rounded him up to score in the first leg.

Marquez would wave his arms around on the touchline for an offside flag but there wasn’t to be. He was resigned to watch on helplessly just as he did in the final seven minutes of the first leg as Mumbai City seized control forcefully in its bid to set up Mumbai City vs Mohun Bagan – Part II.

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