Despite there being a lot on the line for ISL strugglers Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters when they faced off against each other at the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri on Thursday, the match saw a recurrence of both teams' propensity to concede late goals due to defensive errors, ending in a 1-1 draw.
Both the goals in the contest came late into the second half, with Kerala drawing first blood through Raphael Messi Bouli in the 75th-minute, followed almost instantly by an equaliser from Mumbai's Amine Chermiti in the 77th-minute.
The first thirty minutes or so showed great promise, with Eelco Schattorie's Kerala controlling possession and repeatedly getting into excellent crossing positions. Kerala's wingers Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and Seityasen Singh were particularly industrious, bombing forward at every opportunity, but the final ball often lacked the required accuracy, with barely any crosses reaching the head of Bouli, who was often crowded out by a throng of Mumbai defenders.
The first shot on target arrived in spectacular fashion, as Bouli chested down a speculative ball in the opposition penalty area and then attempted an overhead bicycle kick that took the entire stadium by surprise. The resultant shot was on target, and had Mumbai goalkeeper Amrinder Singh scrambling to make a save. The cheers were deafening as the vociferous travelling support made themselves heard, but from that point on, they had little to cheer for until the second half.
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Mumbai gradually grew into the game after looking out of sorts for the first half an hour, with Mohamed Larbi heading over the bar from six yards out in the 36th minute. The chances began to come thick and fast for the Islanders, with the normally prolific Modou Sougou spurning a gilt-edged opportunity in the 42nd minute. Mumbai striker Amine Chermiti picked up the ball on the left flank and surged forward, delivering a gorgeous chipped pass into the path of Raynier Fernandes, who was unable to control it. The ball's momentum took it to the feet of Sougou on the edge of the penalty area, who rushed his shot and fired straight into the hands of a very grateful TP Rehenesh. That was the last moment of note in the first half, as the teams headed into the dressing rooms level.
The second half began in a similar vein, with Mumbai getting the early opportunities. Tunisian midfielder Mohamed Larbi came close to scoring right on the hour mark, as the ball bounced kindly for him on the edge of the penalty area, allowing him to unleash a ferocious volley that just about crept over the bar. Mumbai followed that up with another excellent chance in the 62nd minute, as Rowllin Borges slipped through an inch-perfect through ball for Bipin Singh, who found himself one on one with Rehenesh. The Kerala keeper did well, however, making himself big after sprinting out of his penalty area at full tilt to save from point-blank range.
As the match wore on, the sense that a goal was imminent became stronger with every missed pass and spurned opportunity, and sure enough, the deadlock was broken in the 75th minute by Bouli, who was gifted the opportunity by a lax Mumbai defence. The move that led to the goal was kickstarted by young Jeakson Singh wriggled his way into the penalty area past a series of sedentary Mumbai defenders, before unleashing a shot at goal. Amrinder did well to save the shot with his legs, but the resultant ricochet found Kerala left-back Jessel Carneiro out wide. Carneiro's cross was low and powerful, and Bouli latched onto it with aplomb, hitting the ball as hard as he could straight down the middle. Amrinder got a hand on the shot, but there was just too much power behind it for the Mumbai goalkeeper.
Kerala fans and players alike celebrated like they had won the match, unenlightened as they were with the knowledge that they would be ahead for a grand total of two minutes. Mumbai's reply was swift, and devastating. Sougou rose high in the Kerala box after a counter to head a Sarthak Golui cross in the direction of the goal, but the shot was miscued and ended up at the feet of Chermiti. His first-time shot was saved adeptly by Rehenesh, but there was little that the prostrate keeper could do about the follow-up, which was poked in by the Tunisian forward from a metre out.
Conceding a goal so soon after they had gone ahead seemed to take the wind out of Kerala Blasters' sails, as their intensity waned. Luckily for them, Mumbai were unable to punish them, with the next and last decent opportunity of the match coming in added time, as Sougou was denied a chance to shoot by an excellent tackle from Mohamad Rakip. The full-time whistle was blown soon after, ending both sides' hopes of winning the match.
Both Jorge Costa and Schattorie had differing view-points on the match after the game, with the former saying, "they played well, they (Kerala) scored from a mistake, where we were not in the right position when they scored. We had the luck to equalise, and after that we tried, we were so close to scoring another. At the end, we got one point, and I won’t lie, it’s not enough. I believe in this team, I think we are improving in every game and we can see that we’re doing our best, playing with quality. I hope in the next few games we can be a little lucky, and get a few wins."
His Dutch opponent was more content, admitting that he was okay with a point, saying, "I’m happy with the point, especially in these circumstances, since I’m missing my captain. Overall, I think we were the better team, except for the one moment in which Mumbai countered. I think a point with these young players is okay."
The draw sees Mumbai move up one spot into sixth place, while Kerala remain in eighth, but aside from the obvious disappointment of dropped points, this draw also represents a missed opportunity. With over a third of the season done and dusted, both teams find themselves in a winless streak that stretches six games. A win on Thursday could have been the perfect springboard off which to begin their comeback, but instead of finding answers to the problems that have plagued them, both teams have just run into more questions.
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Updated Date: Dec 06, 2019 14:02:23 IST