After two seasons at Navi Mumbai’s distant DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai City FC played their first home match of the 2016 Hero Indian Super League season at their brand new ground within the city precincts. With a meager 18000 seating capacity, the newly-built stadium at Andheri Sports Complex is much smaller than the previous one but it offers far easier access to football fans in Mumbai. Friday’s game was also Mumbai City FC’s second league match after they beat Pune City in their away game at Balewadi on October 3. Even with less than half-filled stadium, the atmosphere looked great as MCFC took on the yet undefeated NEUFC. Mumbai’s new marquee player from Uruguay Diego Forlan scored from the penalty in second-half and that decided the 1-0 victory for Mumbai over Guwahati. But other than that, Forlan couldn’t impress on the field. He kept lurking near NEUFC’s goal but every time a promising ball was passed to him, he chose to pass it back and didn’t make any serious effort in shooting on the goal himself. In sharp contrast, North-East forwards always moved purposefully and came close to scoring on several occasions. MCFC must be grateful to their goalkeeper Roberto Volpato, who was brilliant between the posts. The Mumbai Team did have its moments with good ball control in the midfield, but they failed to translate that into any serious threat for NEUFC. In the overall assessment, probably a better side lost on Friday.
As the match began on Friday, NEUFC looked like carrying the momentum from their last two games. They had beaten Kerala Blasters 1-0 in this year’s inaugural match at Guwahati last Saturday and followed it with another home victory by defeating FC Goa 2-0 on October 4. Mumbai had also made a good beginning this season by beating FC Pune City 1-0 at Pune on Monday but found NEUFC as tough customers. After the opening minutes saw attacks and counter-attacks from either side, the first real chance came NEUFC’s way in 11th minute, when the visitors earned a free kick but Romaric’s powerful shot went wide. The Ivory Coast’s national player found another opportunity a few minutes later, when he produced a stinging shot from the edge of the 18-yard-box but Mumbai’s Brazilian goalkeeper Volpato responded with a great diving save. In a counter-attack Mumbai carried the ball to the NEUFC goal but a shot by Matias Defederico was saved by Subrata Paul, who has crossed from Mumbai to Guwahati this season. Paul made another save in the 19th minute, when Aiborlang Khongjee unleashed a long-distance shot. Except these two attempts, Mumbai failed to mount any more offensive until halftime. NEUFC, however, made many more attempts but the teams went off goalless at the breather.
Mumbai looked rejuvenated after the break and nearly succeeded in scoring, when Matias Defederico created some space for himself and entered Guwahati’s penalty area in 50th minute, before unleashing a left-footer but his shot missed the goal. However, in 55th minute, NEUFC’s Reagan Singh wrongly brought down Mumbai’s Pronay Halder in the box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Forlan stepped up to smash the ball into the roof of the net as Mumbai took the 1-0 lead.
The pace of the match changed after that goal and NEUFC raised their game to make several forays into MCFC’s goal area. In the 74th minute, Alfaro collected a beautiful pass from Velez and shot through but Mumbai keeper Volpato made another superb save. In 77th minute, Alfaro sent a through pass for Yusa but yet again Volpato foiled the attempt. Mumbai escaped again in the 81st minute, when substitute Holicharan Narzary shot from close range but the ball flew wide off the post. In the closing stages, the play remained confined to Mumbai’s goal area and NEUFC came close to scoring once again with a few minutes remaining. But Robin Gurung could not get the ball through to the goal as many MCFC players had clogged the goal mouth. In the end, Mumbai posted their first victory at home and second of the season as the hooter went off. For their next game also at home, Mumbai will host 2014 champions Atletico de Kolkata on October 11.
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