A tough night at the Tilak Maidan for the Islanders
Mumbai City FC went down 3-1 in an agonizing defeat against Kerala Blasters FC. A brace from Alvaro Vazquez, and a solitary goal by Sahal Abdul Samad dented the Islanders hopes for a play-offs berth.
Des Buckingham rung in only one change to the line-up, featuring Mandar Rao Dessai over Vignesh at left-back. His counterpart Vukomanovic made a couple of changes – giving Sahal and Sandeep Singh the nod over Vincy and Khabra, who faced a suspension.
The saga between Mumbai City and questionable refereeing decisions continued in this game. This time, it came early in the first half. Brad Inman received the ball from Chhangte in a dangerous area, and continued his run in the box. His shot was blocked by Leskovic, but the deflection was still close. As Inman went to head down the air ball, Puitea’s wild high boot caught him in the face. Despite all appeals for a spot-kick, the referee stood still and let play go on.
Kerala Blasters soon gained momentum into the game, with Sandeep Singh bombing ahead. Adrian Luna’s wonderball from deep midfield invited Sandeep to make a bursting run down the right. He took it down and went for glory with an ambitious half-volley, but his effort failed to trouble the keeper.
A couple minutes later, in the 13th minute, Sandeep got on to the end of things once more. A quick free-kick by Vazquez opened Jorge Pereyra down the left. He crossed the ball across the face of goal, and Sandeep was present at the far end to receive it. However, our custodian came out rushing bravely to stifle any attempt at goal.
The Blasters’ attacking intent paid off in the 18th minute, as they notched their first goal of the night. Sahal benefited from a missed interception by Cassio and wormed his way past our ranks. He took the shot from between Mehtab and Fall, while Nawaz remained rooted in his place. The ball hit the net unopposed and gave them the lead.
The first booking of the game came in the 24th minute, when Rahul Bheke was shown yellow for clipping Adrian Luna. This means that our #2 will miss our next game against Hyderabad FC.
Eventually, the boys in blue started making their way into the game albeit towards the end of the first half. Inman passed the ball to Chhangte, who tried to slip it through for Angulo to run on to. Unfortunately, the ball was only a couple inches too far for El Matador to apply the finish.
Only 3 minutes later, Inman released Bipin Singh down the left. Two fabulous touches by our winger saw him leave his man on the ground, and gain enough space to shoot. The attempt was vicious, but curved on the wrong side of the left post and went wide.
In the final minute of the first half, Kerala got their second goal of the game. Adrian Luna won the ball back after a Mumbai City set-piece and set it up for Vazquez down the right flank. He took full advantage of the space provided and made his way into the box. A challenge from Fall brought him down, and the penalty was given. The #99 picked his spot and sent the keeper the wrong way, making it 2-0 for Kerala at the break.
In an effort to pull the game back, the coach brought on Vikram Partap in place of Mandar in the second half.
In spite of the score-line, the second half opened up with even more vigor than the first. Mehtab Singh made a vital block to deny Vazquez a shot on target, Adrian Luna clipped the crossbar with his long range attempt, and Chhangte received a yellow card for a two footed challenge on Luna – all of this in the first 3 minutes.
The Islanders turned up the heat once again before the hour mark. In the 52nd minute, Cassio played a testing long ball behind the Blasters defense. Vikram Partap got to it, but was closed down quickly. He twisted and turned to make some room for himself, but eventually his shot was blocked and went for a corner.
Only a minute later, Apuia tried to float a diagonal across the box. His effort wasn’t dealt with by the defense, and was picked up by Bipin on the edge of the box. Our #29 dragged it down the left and fired in a low cross for Angulo. Although the hit-man got to it, he couldn’t direct it goalwards and his attempt went wide.
Once again, Kerala extended their lead from a seemingly harmless event. Mourtada Fall played a bobbling ball back to Nawaz in the 59th minute, which should have been a regulation clearance. Instead, the ‘keeper made a poor connection and ended up delivering the ball straight to Vazquez who was free in the box. Vazquez simply rolled the ball into the back of the net, and put his side 3 goals ahead.
The second substitution for the Islanders came in the 66th minute, when Diego Mauricio was sent on for Igor Angulo. The Brazilian ace continued his hot streak by winning and scoring a penalty only 2 minutes after coming on.
He was shoved in the back by Hormipam during a corner, and was promptly awarded a penalty. He dispatched it with power and skill, giving Prabhsukhan Gill no chance. Overcome with frustration, Gill threw the ball away after conceding, and received a yellow card.
Cassio was also booked later on in the game for a jab while trying to win the ball.
Kerala’s last chance of the game came in the 80th minute. Adrian Luna took a direct free-kick, which swerved wickedly. Nawaz did well to get down and push it on to the post. The ball bounced back into the path of Rahul, and then to Vazquez. The Spaniard was keen to get his hat-trick but Apuia’s timely interception denied him the pleasure.
The rest of the game only saw a triad of substitutions over the course of the remaining 16 minutes. Raynier came on for Cassio Gabriel, for the Islanders. Whereas, Prasanth came on for Ayush and Chencho came on for Vazquez.
The result puts us out of the top 4, lagging two points under Kerala. We go again in our last fixture of the league phase on Saturday, against Hyderabad FC. The match will be played at the Fatorda at 9:30 PM.