Mumbai: Jorge Costa is a hard man to please. Just ask Raynier Fernandes. In only his third start for Mumbai City, the local lad scored in the second game running to give his side the lead. However, on the touchline, instead of celebrating with the rest of his staff, Costa was talking animatedly to his assistant about changing his tactics now that his side was in the lead.
In the post-match press conference, Costa was asked about his thoughts on Raynier's performances. However, as has been his habit, the Mumbai coach refused to lavish praise on his player only allowing half a smile to show his appreciation of Raynier's performance.
"You know me, I don't like to speak individually of each player. All of them worked hard and I don't like to say A is better than B. When we win, we win together and when we lose...well we don't want to lose," Costa said with a sheepish smile.
On Thursday, Mumbai clinched their sixth win of the season with a convincing 2-0 win over defending champions Chennaiyin FC. Given Chennaiyin's wretched start to the campaign, Mumbai were always favourites going into the match. The Islanders had already beaten John Gregory's men this season when they came away with a 1-0 win from Chennai.
Costa made one change to the side which beat Delhi Dynamos in the last match with Raynier coming in the side for Milan Singh. John Gregory made three changes with Carlos Salom coming in place of out of form striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Anirudh Thapa came back to the side while Tondonba Singh making his debut at left-back.
With both sides starting cautiously, the first real chance of the match came in the 10th minute when Rafael Bastos let go off a weak shot straight at Sanjiban Ghosh in the Chennai goal after being put through by Sogou. At the other end, Raphael Augusto intercepted the ball in midfield and sent Salom through with a perfectly-timed through ball. However, the Palestinian striker could only drag his shot wide off the far post from a difficult angle.
The goal came when it was least expected and from the unlikeliest of players. Raynier Fernandes received the ball outside the box. Sanjiban was slow to react as Raynier’s shot from the edge of the box out went past his outstretched right hand and nestled into the bottom corner. The Chennaiyin gloveman buried his face in the Mumbai grass even as his coach stood dumbfounded wondering how his keeper missed a routine save.
Speaking after the match, Gregory didn't hide his disappointment with Sanjiban's effort. On asked whether Sanjiban could have done better, he said, "Yes. 100%. I didn't expect him to get beaten from that distance. I'll protect my players always and defend them to hell but I didn't expect him to get beaten from that distance."
Augusto has been Chennaiyin's best player of the season so far and whenever the Brazilian got the ball, Chennaiyin looked more likely to score. In the 32nd minute, he shimmied his way to the edge of the box before shooting. Salom got on the end of the shot and his first-time tap in looked destined to go in goal only for Amrinder to scramble and get a huge right hand to it. As the clock wound down on the first half, tempers began to flare. Arnold Issoko and Chennai skipper Mailson Alves exchanged words on the halfway line even as Eli Sabia tried to cool things down. Chennaiyin teammates Isaac Vanmalsawma and Carlos nearly came to blows on the other end of the pitch.
Asked about the fracas after the match, Gregory said, "Raphael was on the floor injured and Isaac did what every player would do and kicked the ball out. Carlitos was angry because we had the ball and he thought we should have continued to attack and try and score a goal. Isaac just did what was common sense and that was over there. It wasn't personal."
The second half began at a slightly slower tempo until Mumbai scored again 10 minutes after the restart. Bastos won the ball in his own half and embarked on a lung-busting run to the edge of the Chennai box, nutmegging Inigo Calderon on the way. The Chennai defence was too slow to react and kept backing off, allowing Bastos to shoot. His shot took a heavy deflection off Sabia and looped up kindly for Modou Sougou to nod it beyond Sanjiban to put the match to bed.
Gregory responded by hauling Calderon off in place of Andrea Orlandi. The left-footed Spaniard’s introduction saw Chennaiyin gain more possession of the ball and allowed Augusto to dictate the play. As Chennai grew in confidence, Mumbai were kept in the match through a couple of crucial saves from Amrinder Singh. First, the Mumbai keeper had to dive low to his right to keep out an Orlandi daisycutter.
Amrinder made another good save in the 90th minute to tip Orlandi's shot on to the crossbar. The ball ricocheted back into play with Thoi Singh nodding it into the empty net only to be flagged offside. Mumbai held on for their sixth clean sheet and win.
Costa can surely afford to smile and be happy with the way his side have improved over the course of the season. With their win on Thursday, the Islanders have registered the best ever unbeaten run in their history, winning five matches and drawing one. The six-match unbeaten run has seen them climb to second in the points table, three behind leaders Bengaluru FC who they face next in a tough fixture.
Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 11:47 AM