Mumbai City FC shut out Kerala Blasters FC 1-0
Mumbai City FC returned to winning ways with a solid performance that saw the hosts get the better of Kerala Blasters FC 1-0 in their fifth game of the inaugural Hero Indian Super League here on Sunday.
French striker Nicolas Anelka converted a free kick in the 44th minute as a well-organised Mumbai City FC shut out their opponents to take their points tally to six and jump to fifth position ahead of their Sunday night opponents.
After the debacle in their last encounter, Mumbai City FC needed to start stronger against Kerala Blasters FC to regain their confidence and the team did just that by keeping possession in the initial stages of the match.
The hosts made two changes to their starting line-up with Pavel Cmovs coming back after suspension for Raju Gaikwad and Peter Costa making way for the experienced Deepak Mondal.
The back four kept things under control as the visitors tried to establish their physical presence on the match. Upfront, Mumbai City FC players concentrated on the small pass routine to hold on to the ball and though they had a few hiccups the ploy worked wonderfully well.
It was through such a passing routine that the hosts got their first attempt at a goal when Andre Moritz release Nicolas Anelka with a through ball and the Frenchman dribbled past a defender but could not find enough strength in his shot to beat goalkeeper Sandip Nandy.
Moritz tested the Kerala Blasters defence immediately after but with no success.
As the teams began to step up and increase the pace of the match, both teams enjoyed passages of supremacy but had nothing more than a couple of corners to show for their efforts.
And just when it looked like the half would end goalless, Anelka showed his magic to put the hosts ahead. Ishfaq Ahmed had conceded a soft free kick after bringing down Czech midfielder Jan Stohanzl just outside their own penalty area and the striker beat Nandy with an exquisite free-kick to send the D.Y. Patil Stadium into jubilation.
The hosts began the second half from where they left off before the break and could have extended their lead in the first five minutes of the restart as Moritz and Stohanzl came close to scoring.
Despite the two near misses, Mumbai City FC continued to dominate the proceedings and Anelka showed his class when he pulled three defenders towards the right flank before releasing the ball for Subhash Singh, who shot over the crossbar with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Moritz and Anelka continued to pressurise the Kerala Blasters’ defence but the team showed enough maturity to slow down the pace in the last quarter of the game to maintain a tight shape and ensure that there were no late comeback opportunities for the visitors.
Coach Peter Reid gave credit to the team for sticking to the plan and said, “It was a tactical performance that I am delighted with. We stuck to our game plan and put together a solid professional performance. We defended as a unit. Although I feel we should have scored a couple of more goals in the game overall, it’s been splendid.
“My priority at the back was to keep it tight, which I think we did pretty well,” he added.
The Englishman, who picked out Anelka for special praise, said his priority after the game to ensure that the team recovered well for the next game. “Going into the next game, my priority for the boys is the recovery. There will be a pool session tomorrow. We need to ensure that they recover well, are re-hydrated, get the right nutrition,” he added.
Result: Mumbai City FC 1 (Nicolas Anelka 44) bt Kerala Blasters 0
Hero of the Match: Nicolas Anelka
Emerging Player of the Match: Sandesh Jhingan
Swift movement of the match: Jan Stohanzl
Fit player of the match: Jan Stohanzl