I-League returned to Mumbai after five long years as Mumbai FC played host to Sporting Club de Goa in their round five encounter last weekend. The Essel group owned team had been playing their home matches at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune. After having notched up their first point of the season in the last round against Sporting, the newly refurbished Cooperage stadium proved lucky for Mumbai FC as they notched up their first win of the season against a formidable Salgaocar side.
Mumbai FC were tipped as early relegation contenders by football fans across the nation and the Khalid Jamil side was starring down the barrel after having lost all of their first three matches. The return to cooperage stadium has however enthused confidence in the side which has also roped in Playwin as their sponsors. Mumbai FC have now picked four points from their last two home matches against more fancied opponents – Sporting Club de Goa and Salgaocar FC. The biggest positive for the team has been the crowd support as the fans had turned up in decent amount to cheer for their side and that has certainly played a part in motivating the team. The attendance is believed to be in excess of three thousand for both the matches which is quite decent compared to the dismal numbers in Goa and Pune. The club has also started the sale of tickets on its website to encourage fans to buy more and more tickets and more such spectator friendly measures will ensure larger turnout in Mumbai which has been devoid of I-League action for a long time.
On the field, an impressive show by Jayesh Rane ensured all three points for the west coast side against Derrick Periera coached Salgaocar side. The hosts scored the opening goal in the sixth minute itself with Japanese play maker Taisuke Matsugae, who had been fed by Rane from the left flank, finding Sampath Kuttymani whose powerful strike gave goal keeper Subrata Pal no chance. Mumbai FC doubled their lead in the 26th minute with Joshimar heading in a Jayesh Rane cross from the right. Salgaocar started the second half on the offensive with Gurjinder Kumar testing Nidhin Lal from a stunning free kick. Salgaocar continued to attack with Gilbert Oliveira, Douhou Pierre and Daryl Duffy in the thick of things but some resolute defending by Justinn Stephen and Chika Wali coupled with some inspired goalkeeping from Nidhin Lal gave them no chance to comeback into the match. Jayesh Rane put the match beyond doubt when he scored the third goal for his team in the 90th minute with Joshimar capturing the assist. The match saw Mumbai FC climb up to the eight spot while Salgaocar remained at the 4th spot. Despite starting the season with a bang by winning the Durand Cup and the Goa Pro League, things have not gone well for the Goan Greens and coach Derrick Periera has his task cut out.
Khalid Jamil and his team will look to take confidence from this match and build for the remainder of the season. The inclusion of Jayesh Rane in the starting eleven added pace and flair to the Mumbai attack which was struggling to score goals. Playing on the left wing, the youngster switched sides with Vashum and was a livewire throughout the match. With the presence of Taisuke Matsugae, former East Bengal player Vashum, Climax Lawrence, Ashutosh Mehta and Kuttymani, Mumbai FC certainly have depth in the midfield. The performances of central defenders Justin Stephen and Chika Wali along with goal keeper Nidhin Lal should give confidence to the team for the upcoming matches. The presence of artifical turf at the Cooperage is also an advantage for Mumbai FC as a lot teams struggle to play on the artificial turf as was the case with Salgaocar in this match.
Defending Champions Bengaluru FC climbed to the second spot in the I-League as they defeated Shillong Lajong 2-0 despite playing an entire half with ten men after central defender Curtis Osano was given the marching orders in the 41st minute after a foul on Cornell Gelnn. Playing at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, the hosts began on the offensive and the inexperienced Shillong defense was always under pressure. Local boy Shankar Sampingiraj who was handed his first start provided the cross for Robin Singh to head in the opener in the 17th minute. Newly crowned AIFF player of the year Sunil Chhetri had a chance to double the scoreline two minutes before the halftime but his short from a narrow angle came of the post. Thoi Singh scored his third I-League goal of the season around the hour mark after he was fed by skipper Sunil Chhetri and the goal proved enough for the Ashley Westwood side to clinch their third consecutive win of the season. Lajong’ s weak defense was left exposed once again and they continued to remain at the ninth spot with three points.
League leaders Pune FC were held to a goalless draw by Federation Cup finalists Dempo Sports Club at Balewadi Sports complex. It was Dempo who dominated the proceedings for most of the ninety minutes but like previous matches failed to convert the chances that came their way. Tolgay Ozbey was in the thick of things right from the start while for the Red Lizards in-form Croatian striker Darko Nikac had to be taken off in the 19th minute after he twisted his ankle. Dempo began the second half from where they had left on in the first half with Carlos Hernandez being the architect of most of the Dempo moves. Clifford Miranda, Alwyn George, Germanpreet Singh and Francis Fernandes all had scoring opportunities but failed to get their name on the score sheet. The draw coupled with other results of the round meant that Pune FC dropped to the second spot while Dempo also dropped a spot to be at the seventh spot.
Royal Wahingdoh returned to the top of the table following a 2-0 win over Flaming Oranje who now find themselves at the bottom of the table. Former Dempo midfielder Densil Theobald saw his shot come of the post in the 19th minute while at the other end Royals goalkeeper Prem Kumar denied Bomia Karpeh with a brilliant move. Seityasen Singh scored the opener for the Santosh Kashyap side five minutes from the half time when he vollyed in a Lallawnzuala cross from the left. Striker Kim Seong-Yong doubled the lead in the 58th minute which proved too much for Sporting Club de Goa in the end.
New entrants Bharat FC held East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in Kolkata in a match which was marked by controversy. With an eye on the upcoming derby, coach Armando Colaco made as many as six changes to the starting lineup. Ranti Martins fired East Bengal into the lead in the 41st minute after he was played in by Shylo Malsawmatluanga and despite the claims of offside by the Bharat FC player, the referee awarded the goal to the Lal-Hould brigade. Bharat FC started the second half with more purpose and had a string of chances. They were eventually rewarded for the efforts when Kiwi Kris Bright scored the equalizer in the 65th minute with the goal yet again surrounded by controversies. Subhashish in the East Bengal goal seemed to have gathered the ball before Kris Bright ran into him and scored after Subhashish dropped the ball. The referee awarded the goal much to the agony of the protesting East Bengal players and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.