For Mumbai City FC, Adam le Fondre made his return to the starting eleven along with Vignesh D. Cy Goddard replaced the suspended Ahmed Jahouh. Prasanth K, Bakary Kone, and Denechandra Meitei were back in the Kerala Blasters playing XI.
The Islanders made a promising start with as many as two great goal scoring opportunities coming their way. Le Fondre in the 11th minute made a brilliant run inside the final third after receiving a long pass. Our No. 9 did manage to beat the two KBFC defenders but failed to get the shot on target.
Le Fondre had another go in the 15th minute after receiving a wonder ball from Boumous, only to hit it wide of the far post.
With the likes of Mourtada Fall and Hernan Santana, our backline managed to keep the home side at bay and made vital interceptions when it mattered the most. Captain Amrinder too was up for duty as he brilliantly tipped Bakary Kone's header away for a corner in the 13th minute.
KBFC did make some inroads after the first fifteen minutes of the play. The home side managed to score the opener in the 27th minute from a corner kick. Samad's corner found Vicente Gomez in front of the goal as he headed his side to a 1-0 lead. Captain Amrinder Singh made an excellent save with a diving effort in the 29th minute to deny Jordan Murray & Kerala from doubling their lead.
Mumbai City FC had a few chances to score the equaliser in the 36th minute but some good work at the defense and a resilient effort by their keeper denied both Raynier Fernandes and Amey Ranawade from finding the back of the net.
The closing stages of the first-half saw two yellow cards. KBFC’s Costa Nhamoinesu and MCFC's Mourtada Fall were at the receiving end in space of one minute as the home side closed down the opening half with a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders needed a strong comeback and they did exactly that at the start of the second half. Bipin Singh netted the ball in the 46th minute and it was game-on since then.
Both sides made multiple attempts to take the lead but equally brilliant work at the defense and some wonderful keeping by both custodians kept it to 1-1. It was a matter of who blinks first. Lack of concentration and more pressing from the Islanders got the better of Costa Nhamoinesu.
Already on a yellow card, Costa brought down Adam le Fondre inside the box and the referee had no second thoughts before awarding a spot-kick to the visitors. Le Fondre who missed a few good chances in the first half scored from the spot-kick and gave the Islanders a much-needed lead. It was Adam’s 8th strike of the campaign.
Kerala Blasters responded with a couple of changes. Jeakson Thounaojam and Gary Hooper came in for Bakary Kone and Prasanth Karuthadathkuni in the space of two minutes and not after too long Juande was given the third booking of the match.
Mumbai City FC kept things tidy at the back and didn’t give the home side any sniff of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Sergio Lobera made a few changes in the space of 2 minutes. Cy Goddard’s place was taken by Jackichand Singh. Bartholomew Ogbeche and Mandar Rao Dessai came on for the goal-scorer Adam Le Fondre and Vignesh D. Mandar was given a yellow card two minutes later.
Kerala Blasters made their final change in the 89th minute. Seityasen Singh came in for Sahal Abdul Samad. But it was all left too late as the home side failed to find the equaliser. Vikram Partap Singh replaced Hugo Boumous during the added six minutes of play. There was a close offside call in stoppage time as the visitors managed to keep their one-goal lead intact and come out victorious with 3 massive points.
The Islanders extended their lead to six points and are still at the top of the points table. The next couple of fixtures FC Goa on Feb 8 and Bengaluru FC on Feb 15 will pretty much confirm where we finish at the closing stage of the group matches.