In a pre-match press conference, Mumbai City FC manager Jorge Costa urged his players to show respect to the club, the work and the fans after their thrashing at the hands of FC Goa. His plea was answered in emphatic fashion by the team, as they put in an assured performance to beat visitors Delhi Dynamos 2-0, with the goals coming from Moudou Sougou and Arnold Issoko.
Jorge Costa fielded a mostly unchanged side, with the exception of Subhasish Bose, who was reprieved of his duties as an interim centre-back and allowed to return to his preferred position at left-back. Goalkeeper Ravi Kumar stepped forward in the absence of the injured Amrinder Singh. For Delhi, there were a couple of changes, with Nandhakumar Sekar dropped in favour of Romeo Fernandes and Vinit Rai returning to the starting XI after coming off the bench against Chennaiyin FC in their last outing.
Mumbai began the match poorly and for the first 20 minutes, it seemed like the fans were in for another long night, as Delhi dominated possession and created the best chances. Mumbai sat deep in the beginning of the first half, allowing Delhi's attackers to bomb forward, with the likes of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Andrija Kaludjerovic and Fernandes linking up at full tilt to cause the Mumbai defence a whole host of problems.
The first real chance of the match fell the way of Fernandes, who blazed over the bar after a cross from Chhangte was misread by Mumbai defender Lucian Goian. This was followed by a flurry of early chances for the visitors, with Kaludjerovic turning neatly at the edge of Mumbai's penalty area in the 12th minute to unleash a venomous shot that was palmed away by Mumbai shot-stopper Kumar. Goian was quick to make up for his earlier mistake by expertly sliding in with a block to deny Chhangte on the rebound.
Mumbai began to grow into the game with time and saw a lot more of the ball after the first twenty minutes. The hosts managed to make a few cautious forays into their opponents' final third but were yet to truly trouble Delhi when Rafael Bastos picked up the ball near the halfway line and pinged a speculative cross-field pass to Arnold. The Congolese winger raced past Delhi left-back Narayan Das and squared a first-time cross into the six-yard box, which was slotted home by the outstretched foot of Sougou.
The goal inspired a furious spell of attacking football from Mumbai, with Sougou finding himself in yet another goal-scoring opportunity just two minutes later. The Portuguese forward gave himself a yard of space with a deft feint that had centre-back Marti Crespi seeing stars but his dazzling footwork was followed up by a tame shot, which barely troubled Delhi keeper Francisco Dorronsoro.
Delhi managed to reach the half-time whistle without conceding another goal, despite Mumbai throwing everything they had at them. Manager Josep Gambau substituted Vinit Rai, putting on Bikramjit Singh in his place, in an attempt to flip the script.
The second half started on a frenetic note, with Subhasish playing an inch-perfect through ball in the 47th minute to Arnold, who was through on goal until he was brought down inside the penalty area by Delhi defender Rana Gharami. Referee Ramaswamy Srikrishna straightaway pointed to the spot and a penalty was awarded to Mumbai. Bastos stepped up to take it, but his side-footed effort sailed wide of Dorronsoro's left post.
Seemingly heartened by the missed penalty, Delhi found their way back into the match, as wingers Chhangte and Romeo interchanged flanks frequently and popped up in good positions to curl crosses into Mumbai's box, albeit to little avail. Delhi's inability to convert good chances has seen them drop points on multiple occasions and their wastefulness was evident again on Saturday as Kaludjerovic missed two gift-wrapped opportunities to score.
The Serbian striker was unable to sort out his feet after a cross from Romeo Fernandes floated through a sea of Mumbai defenders to reach him, shooting wide of the gaping goal. Just minutes later, Kaludjerovic latched on to a through ball from Chhangte and unleashed a shot that left the woodwork rattling after rebounding off the crossbar.
Mumbai's second-choice goalkeeper Ravi Kumar was called into action in the 66th minute when a deflected Gianni Zuiverloon shot fell the way of Chhangte, who attempted to curl one into the top-left corner. Kumar acrobatically leapt into the air to deny the diminutive winger and keep his side in the lead. Delhi kept pressing forward at every opportunity, with Romeo getting another shot on target, but it was ultimately their recklessness going forward that cost them.
Rafael Bastos was yet again the architect of Mumbai's second goal in the 77th minute, after the Brazilian midfielder stole the ball off Adria Carmona's toes deep into his own half, and fired an exquisite driven pass into Arnold, who found himself bearing down on Delhi's goal. Keeper Dorronsoro raced out of the safety of his penalty area in an attempt to reach the ball before Arnold but managed to nutmeg himself after miscuing a wild kick at the ball. Arnold was left with the fairly easy task of slotting the ball into an empty net for his first goal of the season.
Delhi's resolve seemed to wither after the second goal, with the rest of the match passing by without incident. Fernandes was able to get a shot on target in the 91st minute but blasted his half-volley straight at Ravi Kumar, who made a straightforward save to earn Mumbai's second clean sheet.
The win will relieve some of the pressure on under-fire Jorge Costa, taking his team to fifth in the table with seven points. Delhi Dynamos, on the other hand, will have to wait a little longer for their first win of the season, and currently find themselves eighth, with things looking likely to get worse. An exhausting run of fixtures that has already seen them play thrice in seven days will culminate in a home fixture against high-flying NorthEast United on Tuesday.
Jorge Costa's Mumbai side has had a strange start to the season, experiencing the joy of victory as well as the bitter taste of defeat, with a draw thrown in for good measure. However, this victory has shown that they have the abilities to make a push for a long overdue ISL title if they can manage to perform with some degree of consistency.
Updated Date: Oct 29, 2018 10:33:18 IST