In a show of dazzling football in front of the sell-out home crowd, Mumbai City FC reduced their State rivals Pune city FC to pulp. It was heartening for the ISL and local organizers that in a city known for producing India’s best cricketers, football took center-stage for once. The picturesque DY Patil Sports Stadium in the twin-city of Navi Mumbai was nearly full of football fans, supporting not just Mumbai but there were large numbers from Pune too. Incidentally, it takes less than 2 hour’s enjoyable ride to commute between Pune and the football stadium at Navi Mumbai’s Nerul Township. But no one would have expected such emphatic victory that Mumbai carved out on Saturday night. After their loss to Atletico de Kolkata in Hero ISL’s inaugural match at Kolkata, Mumbai would have wanted to reverse the trend as quickly as possible. Last night’s match against Pune City FC was therefore the perfect opportunity and Mumbai came away from that game with their flags flying high. In a total dominance from the very start, Mumbai adopted an attacking style of play with improved passing that left little chance for Pune to steal the ball from Mumbai. To add a sweet icing on the 5-0 victory-cake, Mumbai City FC’s Brazilian star, Andre Moritz scored the tournament’s first hat-trick much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Mumbai team had an extensive practice session on Saturday in a bid to acclimatize themselves on the grass, ahead of their match next day. After the practice ended, Coach Peter Reid and ex-German star Manuel Friedrich spoke to the members of the press. Reid said that after their match with Kolkata on October 12, he was placing extensive emphasis on short and accurate passing. Reid and Friedrich were delighted by the stadium turf and even went to the extent of mentioning that DY Patil stadium had a better quality natural grass and it was far better than the artificial surface of Salt Lake, Kolkata. Reid informed the media that Mumbai would still be without Syed Rahim Nabi, who was nursing an ankle injury but Freddie Ljungberg could make the grade as he looked good in practice.
As the game got off on Saturday, Mumbai immediately took the ball in Pune’s half and launched many goal-ward attempts. The Pune defense looked weak but Emanuele Belardi’s goal-keeping was top class. The Pune goalkeeper made some creditable saves to keep the Mumbai onslaught on check. But for Belardi’s good work, Mumbai would have got at least half a dozen goals by half-time. In the 12th minute, Andre Moritz received a brilliant angular pass from Lalrindika Ralte and in a sudden flash of spectacular football; Moritz easily cut through Pune’s poor defense and unleashed a powerful left footer from the right corner of the box to the farthest corner of the net. Even Belardi’s best attempt couldn’t have saved the inch-perfect volley. 15 Fifteen minutes later, Mumbai earned a corner kick, when Belardi punched away an ominous angular header by a diving Nadong Bhutia. Ralte took the corner and yet again, he found the Brazilian in a nice position to tap the ball in to take Mumbai to 2-0. In between Pune’s marquee player David Trezeguet produced an out-of-the-world reverse scissor-kick from inside the box but his shot only found the crossbar. In the 36th minute, Subhash Singh, who had a brilliant game, got a beautiful through-pass from Jan Stohanzal. With the ball, Singh crashed into the Pune box by ditching Bruno Cirillo and ended up by scoring Mumbai’s third goal. The teams went out for the break with Mumbai leading 3-0.
After half time, the match continued in the same vein with Mumbai keeping the pressure. The crowd had been waiting for star player Fredrik Ljungberg, who finally came to the field in the 68th minute. Soon after the applause for Ljungberg died down, Moritz completed his hat-trick as he scored his third and Mumbai’s fourth goal. It was a lovely pass from Tiago in the 71st minute, to which Moritz latched on and fired accurately into the goal. The dejected Pune literally gave up with 10 minutes remaining but Mumbai forwards were hungry for more. They completed the goal-fest in the 85th minute, when Nadong Bhutia sent a long pass to the right flank, where Johan Letzelter was completely unmarked. Letzelter did not make any mistake with the easiest of chances that Mumbai City FC got on Saturday.
In a match that recorded ISL 2014’s highest number of 4 yellow cards, Pune suffered mostly because of their inexplicably poor defensive tactics. Mumbai were charged up from the beginning and they allowed very little chance to Pune.
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