Mumbai City FC played an erratic game but in the end they got lucky in beating Kerala Blasters 1-0. An on-the-target free-kick from Mumbai’s marquee player Frenchman Nicolas Anelka showed his class. The free-kick taken just before the halftime from 25 yards, curled deceptively before finding the top corner. Anelka thus scored his first goal in the Hero Indian Super League, much to the delight of the Sunday crowd, gathered at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium. The result of the match also helped Mumbai in improving their position in the league-table. From the bottom, Mumbai is now placed fifth with 6 points, whereas Kerala Blasters are sixth with 4 points. Both teams have played five matches each in the Hero ISL so far.
Though the first half was evenly contested, neither Mumbai nor Kerala could come to create any spark in the game. There were chances for both teams but no promise. In the 9th minute, just as Mumbai’s Pavel Cmovs sent the ball back to his goalkeeper, KB’s Iain Hume came charging in but Mumbai goalkeeper Subrata Paul collected the ball and averted the danger. Mumbai came close in the 17th minute, when Anelka got a pass in the penalty box but KB defenders foiled his attempt. Both Mumbai and Kerala got corners but the chances proved ineffective. In the 21st minute, it was Mumbai but the KB ‘keeper Sandip Nandy punched the ball away. When KB got the corner in the 26th minute, a header from Cedric Hengbart went off the target. Despite creating opportunities, the teams couldn’t show the acumen of capitalizing on the chances until Nicolas Anelka decided to take control in his hands. As halftime approached, KB midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed wrongly brought down Mumbai’s Jan Stohanzl. The referee awarded a free-kick to Mumbai from just out of the KB box and Anelka placed the ball on the spot. The Frenchman produced a beauty that curled viciously and floated above the heads of several players before whizzing through the top corner in the 44th minute.
The teams went for the break with Mumbai leading 1-0. When they came back, Mumbai appeared a rejuvenated side as they began the proceedings with several attacking moves in the Kerala half. On many such occasions, Anelka was central to such attacks. The veteran French footballer showed glimpses of his illustrious past as his amazing twists and turns on the field foxed KB defenders. In the 74th minute, Anelka created a wonderful second-goal opportunity, when he sent a superb cross inside the Kerala box that found Subhash Singh in the perfect position. However, the golden chance was lost as Singh couldn’t control his shot. The crowd at DY Patil stadium missed a beat, when Singh’s lofted effort sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. The French striker came close to scoring on two other occasions but he was denied by KB goalkeeper Sandip Nandy. The second half belonged completely to Anelka though Mumbai couldn’t add to their halftime score. Even after 4 minutes were added to the regulation time, no goals could be scored. At the final whistle, it was Mumbai, who won the game 1-0 against Kerala Blasters.
It wasn’t a great match, though the contestants looked equal. Kerala Blasters didn’t play a bad game either but like Mumbai; they failed to convert the opportunities that came their way. Mumbai had some really close chances but they erred at crunch times. The magical free-kick from Anelka was the only difference between the two teams. With five matches already played, both Mumbai and Kerala would need more fire in their games from now onwards, in order to make upward progress.