Terrific Taisuke’s late winner propels Mumbai FC to a sixth place finish

Mumbai FC secured their I-League status for next season after finishing in sixth place with a 2-1 win over Kalyani Bharat FC in the last round of the Hero I-League at Cooperage on Saturday, 30th May 2015. This is Mumbai FC’s highest finish ever in their history.

Khalid Jamil named an unchanged side from his side’s 2-1 win over East Bengal in their last game while Bharat FC were without start striker Kris Bright from the start as the tall forward had to settle for a place on the bench.

Mumbai FC who needed a point to be safe from the drop, started the game with a high tempo withMumbai FC’s Taisuke Matsugae very nearly making Bharat FC pay for some sloppy defending in the 8th minute by pouncing on a loose ball and drive inside the Bharat FC box to force a save off Shahinlal Meloy

Two minutes later, Mumbai FC took the lead through Ashutosh Mehta, who rose the highest to send a brilliant glancing header into the bottom corner as the hosts were rewarded for a quick start.

Bharat FC were struggling to cope with Mumbai FC’s physicality on set pieces and almost paid for it in the 13th minute when Josimar peeled away from his marker to get on the end of a deep free kick, but his volley was a rather tame one which allowed the Bharat FC goalkeeper to gobble it up.

The visitors who struggled to build any attacks of note in the first half had their hands full dealing with Mumbai FC’s constant threat upfront. Taisuke was at the thick of things in the 23rd minute when his lay off allowed Mohammed Rafi to fire a venomous drive at goal which just sailed over the crossbar.

Mumbai had great chances to stretch their lead from set-pieces but saw Brazilian Josimar miss a free header from six yards out in the 25th minute which was followed by another miss from a free header from Chika Wali, nine minutes later.

Yet another chance went begging for the hosts in the first minute of first half stoppage time, when a brilliant piece of play from Alan Dias saw the full back slide Taisuke through on goal, but the Japanese lifted his shot over the goal to see his side take only a slender lead into half time, despite dominating the game and creating a host of chances to add to their tally.

Bharat FC showed more promise at the start of the second half as the Mumbai FC custodian Kunal Sawant had to alert to make a good low save to deny Romulao Boco in the 50th minute.

Khalid Jamil decided to change personnel to seize back the control of the game as he brought on John Coutinho in place of Jayesh Rane three minutes later.

Stuart Watkiss too responded to his side’s slight resurgence after the restart by throwing on Kris Bright in place of Subhas Singh.

Just as it looked like Mumbai FC had tamed a Bharat FC wave, the hosts conceded a rather soft goal when substitute Omar Jarun beat an onrushing Kunal Sawant to the ball to see his looping effort go into the net despite substitute Abhishek Yadav’s efforts to clear it in the 71st minute.

The equalizer saw a complete momentum shift as the visitors began to look more and more menacing as the full time whistle neared. Jamil knowing a point would preserve their I-League status for another season, brought on Shilton D’Silva in place of Josimar in the final quarter of the game pushing Taisuke in the striker’s role.

With the game heating up, Dharmaraj Ravanan got involved in a rough battle with Taisuke Matsugae and was booked for that.

Romulao Boco was unfortunate not to have put Bharat FC in front in the 78th minute, when Ashutosh Mehta’s sloppy defending allowed him to cut in and unleash a powerful drive which bounced out off the crossbar.

With relegation, though distant, but a possibility Mumbai FC sat deeper in their box trying to hold on for a point, invited extreme pressure onto them which they nervously dealt with.

But then came the most crucial moment in the game when Mumbai FC broke with Climax Lawrence releasing Mohammed Rafi on the right flank who curled a beautiful cross at the near post which was rather heroically met by Taisuke Matsugae who made a late run to beat his marker and nod past the Bharat FC goalkeeper to send Cooperage into delirium.

The Japanese’s darting run at the heart of the Bharat FC defense was a breathtaking one as it totally undid the Bharat FC defense.

The win meant Mumbai FC avoided relegation and finished in a record sixth position in the I-League charts with a tally of twenty four points.

Taisuke’s goal was a perfect way to end their first full campaign back at Cooperage after five years of wait. The other results saw five time Indian Champions Dempo get relegated after going down 2-0 to Salgaocar.

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