The Islanders earned a hard-fought three points against a spirited SC East Bengal side to return to winning ways.
Mumbai City FC secured a 1-0 victory over SC East Bengal on Tuesday, at the Fatorda. The win spurred on the Islanders for the top 4 race, and gave the Torchbearers their third consecutive loss.
Des Buckingham named two changes in his starting line-up – Bradden Inman came in for Ahmed Jahouh, and Vignesh D came in for Mandar Rao Dessai. Meanwhile, Mario Rivera made wholesale changes from his last game. Semboi Haokip, Sourav Das, Mahesh Singh, Bikash Jairu and Raju Gaikwad slotted in for Antonio Perosevic, Amarjit Singh, Rahul Paswan, Naocha Singh and Hira Mondal.
The game started off in the Red and Gold’s favor as they made some decent chances in the first couple of minutes. First, it was Mahesh Singh’s testing through ball that forced Nawaz to take initiative. The ‘keeper had to rush out and claim it before Semboi could get to it.
Moments later, the visitors won the ball in our third through their press, and Hnamte made a dynamic run into the box. He squared it, which went past Semboi but lined up well for Mahesh. The midfielder struck it first time, but Nawaz was equal to it.
The boys in blue had a half-chance in the 14th minute courtesy of a Rahul Bheke throw. A flash of ingenuity saw our local lad deliver it quickly to Inman instead of opting for one of his trademark long-throws. The Aussie received at the right edge of the box, and tried to create something of it. Unfortunately, he sliced the ball and it went wide.
Another Bheke throw-in led to a chance seven minutes after. This time, it was a long throw and Mourtada Fall was on the end of it. The delivery dipped well for the captain, but he had no choice but to head it backwards. The attempt was saved comfortably by the SCEB goalie.
In the 26th minute, EB got into a good position yet again. Fran Sota fed the ball to Mahesh, who once again tried to put it on a plate for Semboi. The striker took his touch, and made his way into the box freely. A great defensive effort from Fall saw him rush back, put in a challenge and avert the danger.
The remainder of the first half was shy of any action, save a couple shots from Vignesh D and Fran Sota from outside the box. Both teams went into the tunnel deadlocked.
The second half started with some zip, much like the first. Naorem Mahesh showed his energy yet again, by pressing us and winning the ball. He made his way into the box and tried to drive it with his left foot. However, the shot was too weak and was saved with ease.
The energy flowed, but this time on the other end of the pitch. Chhangte pulled out his bag of tricks, and peeled away from Raju Gaikwad to send in a dangerous cross. The ball was met by Bipin, and was sent across to Igor Angulo. El Matador, who would generally score from there with ease, ended up missing the goal.
It didn’t take long for the goal to come though, as the Islanders marched into the lead in the 50th minute. A quick counter was started from Rahul Bheke’s header, which was picked up by Brad Inman. He shifted the ball out to Bipin and our Flash did the rest of the work. He cut in confidently, and slammed the ball into the bottom right corner. Having reached half a dozen goals already, Bipin Singh has now equaled his tally from last season.
The goal injected a bit of spirit into the game, and both teams started showing more positive intent.
Around the hour mark, SCEB came close to scoring through a set-piece. Fran Sota’s outswinging delivery was nearly turned goalwards by Franjo Prce. The header though, went narrowly wide of the goalframe.
This prompted a triad of changes. SC East Bengal brought in the duo of Darren Sidoel and Jackichand Singh for Sourav Das and Naorem Mahesh. Whereas, for the Islanders, Diego Mauricio came on for Igor Angulo.
The #33 cut a lively figure, trying to head a corner in almost immediately, but was denied by Joyner Lourenco’s block.
Entering the final 15 minutes, there were a couple more changes. Vinit Rai was brought on for Inman, and Angou came in for Bikash Jairu.
The Torchbearers got their best chance of the night in the 79th minute. Once again, it was a Fran Sota corner that led to trouble. The delivery itself wasn’t dangerous, but it was poorly dealt with by the defense. Prce kept it alive and took a shot. The shot was blocked and almost cleared, but a deflection helped it back in the danger zone. Raju Gaikwad tried to make the headlines through an audacious overhead kick, but was denied by Nawaz’s quick reflexes. The ball still wasn’t sent out of play until Fran Sota got on to it and sent it over the bar.
Our final chance of the game came in the 82nd minute. Cassio intercepted a poor pass, and burst past the EB defense. He sat their goalkeeper down comfortably, with a fake shot and tried to chip it into the net. Surprisingly, the ball flew well over the bar and the scoreline remained 1-0.
In the dying minutes, Raynier and Vikram were brought on for Cassio and Chhangte.
Mumbai City saw out the win comfortably and took the 3 points back home. The result brings us back into the top 4, with 28 points. The boys go again on the 26th of February against FC Goa at the Bambolim.