Mumbai City FC (MCFC) asserted their dominance by edging out ATK Mohun Bagan 1-0 in a hotly-contested Hero Indian Super League game at Fatorda Stadium, on Monday. The Islanders helped themselves five points clear at the top of the standings over the second-placed Mariners right at the halfway stage of the league.
Bartholomew Ogbeche scored a 69th-minute stunner which was enough for the Islanders to get past their rivals and extended their unbeaten run to nine games. His goal was the first time that ATKMB conceded from open play this season.
Sergio Lobera made two changes to Mumbai's eleven with Cy Goddard coming in for the suspended Ahmed Jahouh while Bartholomew Ogbeche was a surprise inclusion ahead of Adam Le Fondre.
Meanwhile, ATKMB coah Antonio Habas rang in three changes with Manvir Singh starting upfront. Glan Martins paired Javier Hernandez in midfield with the latter making a comeback after last featuring against Odisha on December 3.
Mumbai City were dominant in the first session in terms of possession play but despite some nervy moments in the game, ATKMB were lucky to walk into the breather having the scores level. The opening half was all about Mumbai's attack vs ATKMB's defence. But despite failing to register a single shot on target, the Mariners defended resolutely to keep the scoreline goalless.
Sergio Lobera’s side forced an early scare on ATKMB's defence with their usual pace and high pressing game, creating an opportunity during the 8th minute. Hernan Santana initiated the move and found Mandar Rao Dessai. The full-back kept his composure and squared the ball to Hugo Boumous, but the Frenchman's shot was straight at keeper Arindam Bhattacharja.
Mumbai City FC were inches away from taking the lead when Ogbeche diverted the ball from a goalmouth scramble. Luckily, Arindam was at the right place at the right moment to prevent the ball from entering the net with a goal-line save, leaving Lobera in disbelief.
ATKMB came back strongly in the second half and created a couple of chances. Edu Garcia had a big part to play. First he crashed his free kick from outside the box on target but Mumbai custodian Amrinder Singh dived full stretch to keep it out of goal. Garcia then saw his effort from open play hit the woodwork when he was set through by substitute Pranoy Halder, who replaced Martins at the break.
Mumbai finally managed to get past Arindam in the 69th minute and it was Ogbeche who produced a brilliant finish to give his side a deserved lead after being assisted by Boumous.
The Frenchman traded a one-two with Santana and played back-heel pass to Ogbeche, who made his run and curled his effort into the top-right corner.
Mumbai’s Mourtada Fall stood tall late in the game with vital blocks to deny Sandesh Jhingan and David Williams from finding the equaliser for ATKMB.
NorthEast, Bengaluru fight for revival
FPJ News Service
There aren't many things to separate NorthEast United and Bengaluru FC at this stage of the Hero Indian Super League season. Both sides started strong, maintaining their place in the top four before a bad run of results saw them slide down the table. As they take on each other at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Tuesday, both sides will aim to recapture the momentum that they had lost earlier in the season.
The Highlanders find themselves a point adrift of sixth-placed Bengaluru who have accumulated 12 points. Both teams have conceded more goals than they have scored and while Bengaluru have lost four games on the trot, NEUFC are winless in six while suffering three losses.
The last time the two met, NEUFC fought back to earn a 2-2 draw, despite trailing by two goals. And NorthEast assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew, who will be filling in for the suspended Gerard Nus, hopes the Guwahati-based can turn the corner and start afresh.
"The main thing is that we not only focus on the negatives but the positives also," he said. "Tomorrow is our first game of the second leg of the season and it's a new day, a new beginning for us. I'm sure that the players and the team as a whole can give a good performance tomorrow."
BFC interim coach Naushad Moosa, who took over from predecessor Carles Cuadrat before the game against SC East Bengal, couldn't help the side arrest their slump, suffering a 0-1 defeat. But one positive from the game for Moosa was getting his idea across to his players.
"Before the game (against East Bengal), the message was not to worry about the result," he said. "No matter what happens, we come out with the feeling that we gave our 100%. Of course, winning is important. But the last match, the most important thing was for them to have faith in me in the way we want to play. I feel I was successful in doing that. That will help us in the next game."
Moosa felt the match against the Highlanders will give The Blues a better assessment of themselves.
"I have been watching NorthEast, they are not a bad team," Moosa said. "When we met them earlier, we had a 2-2 draw. They are a team that fights back. We cannot be relaxed. Our players are aware of the roles and responsibilities and how important this match is going to be for us to understand where we stand in the league. We have 10 games in hand, and maybe for a good start (for the rest of the tournament), let's try to win the game against NorthEast."