Balwant scores braces as Mumbai City enter top four

Balwant Singh of Mumbai City FC slots the ball past the keeper during match 28 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC held at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati India on the 20th December 2017 Photo by: Ron Gaunt / ISL / SPORTZPICS

A brace from Balwant Singh, both goals set up by Achille Emana, propelled Mumbai City FC to a 2-0 win over NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Wednesday.

Balwant Singh of Mumbai City FC slots the ball past the keeper during match 28 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC held at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati India on the 20th December 2017 Photo by: Ron Gaunt / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Balwant Singh of Mumbai City FC slots the ball past the keeper during match 28 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC held at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati India on the 20th December 2017
Photo by: Ron Gaunt / ISL / SPORTZPICS

The win took Mumbai into the top four of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) table, and banished the memories of a disappointing 0-1 loss against ATK at home.

The first goal was a howler as NorthEast’s goalkeeper, Ravi Kumar, ran out of his area to challenge Balwant, with the Indian simply having to arrange it past him into a gaping goal from outside the box. The Indian looked as surprised as did all the fans, but it was his precision that eventually counted.

Mumbai City put the result out of doubt with a second goal in the 68th minute. A lapse in concentration from Rowllin Borges allowed Emana into a dangerous area from where he squared the ball for Balwant. With an open goal awaiting him for the second time in the match, he made no mistake whatsoever.

The goal came minutes after Balwant had missed a chance from close range. Emana was the man at it again, but his cross was headed over from yards away in an inexplicable miss. But while Balwant took credit for the goals, it was Emana who caused the most trouble for NorthEast. The attacking midfielder created room for himself brilliantly on the hour mark, but this time Ravi Kumar got down sharply to make a stop.

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NorthEast piled on the pressure and sent fizzing crosses into the box at will, but a lack of cutting edge in front of goal meant those chances went abegging. It was the story of the match, so to speak:  NorthEast’s failure in front of goal. They saw Marcinho smack the post with an attempt and Seiminlen Doungel miss from point-blank range before Mumbai’s goals. This profligacy in front of goal will certainly be a problem in their quest to qualify for the business end of the Hero ISL.

Their coach, Joao de Deus, was vociferously discussing tactics with his players and they seemed to benefit from it with some excellent dominance. However, these spells counted for nothing. The head coach will be pleased with their performance and how they made Mumbai City work hard for a win, but he will also know that it counts for nothing if his team can’t score.

NorthEast now sit in lowly ninth position and have scored just two goals in six matches. NorthEast play promising football and Mumbai dish out a style that is result-oriented. In the end, it was the latter that mattered.

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