Triple Triumph: A week to remember for Mumbai FC

It’s a slightly quiet weekend at Mumbai FC, especially with the senior team not involved in the weekend’s league action as the men in yellow enjoy some well-deserved rest. It’s a stark contrast to the U-20 side who have been in action throughout the week and into the weekend as they participated in the Bangali Sangha Tournament. But both the teams will look back at the past week very fondly, thus gearing up for the ones ahead.

The senior team called for some attention of football fanatics in the country as their winning exploits against Salgaocar on Sunday and more importantly against former Champions and League Leaders Bengaluru FC three days later. The U-20s on the other hand, had their first taste of glory when they lifted the Late Nitu Mandke Memorial Trophy held on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day, by beating the Air India U-19 squad on penalties.

Coach Khalid Jamil talked up the importance of avoiding a defeat in a short league like the I-League in the build-up to the Salgaocar game, which he clearly wanted to win to start the week. However, the clouds of doubt had to make way as Mumbai FC grinded out a 2-1 win against a spirited Salgaocar side who fought harder than ever this season to get something off the game. The smiles were back and the tone of the questions thrown changed a bit, but there was little time to dwell on it as just when the boys caught hold of their breath the next opponent was waiting in the wings, looking rampant as ever.

Meanwhile as the senior team rejoiced their first win of the campaign and got ready for another big battle, the U-20 side was scripting a story of their own. Having qualified for the last eight of a gruelling two-day tournament, formerly known as the Republic Day Cup, Mumbai FC U-20 were within three games of glory, only that the games were spaced out within a few hours. The opponents didn’t come any easier with hosts ICL and the efficient HDFC side lying in their path to the final. The colts however proved their mettle and got through to the showpiece final, where the Air India U-19 side stood in waiting. After a tight affair that ended 1-1 in normal time, Mumbai FC edged the Final after a pulsating penalty shootout that ended 5-4 in favour of the Mumbai FC colts.

As the club celebrated the success of their colts, visitors Bengaluru FC had already arrived and had brought some half a thousand fans along with them as they vowed to paint Cooperage blue. But the sea of blue found their match in an ocean of yellow who sang relentlessly, not allowing the sounds of blue cheers linger long in the ears of the Cooperage faithful. The rest was taken care of by the way things panned out on the field, as Arata Izumi and Min Chol Son had Mumbai FC in a 2-0 lead within the first fifteen minutes of the game and suddenly the distance to their West Block dawned on the much fancied Blues in the stands.

The state of the Blues on the pitch was similar to those in the stands for much part of the second half as the Yellow Brigade had the wind and the voices blowing in their favour. Bold moves from the Bengaluru boss at the break saw Sunil Chhetri taken off, but little change in terms of the result as swagger turned into solidity to stave of the much improved Bengaluru challenge in the second half.

Bengaluru’s hopes faded as the fans’ volume in the stands rose. The victory was achieved and Khalid Jamil could hardly hide his joy when he arrived to speak with the press. The gaffer refused to be carried away as he highlighted the importance of a win against strong opposition. But unfortunately there was a bit of bitterness left behind by his opposite number’s lack of grace in defeat, but it didn’t overshadow the great spectacle that Cooperage was on the day, wherein the visiting Bengaluru fans certainly played a part.

As jubilance wilts away into tranquillity on an action free weekend, a bit of a flashback on the laurels achieved in the week is the perfect way to head into yet another week that has examinations on the agenda.

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