Playing their first home match of the season, Mumbai City FC took advantage of goals from Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Lalengmawia Ralte to beat Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 in the Indian Super League on Sunday. The victory ensured that Des Buckingham’s team remained undefeated in the competition after three rounds.
It was an intense clash, which turned quite ugly in the final minutes. The referee handed out up to 10 yellow cards and two red cards in a row in the match while tempers flared on the field and on the benches.
With 10 minutes of added time in the second half, Kerala’s Milos Drincic pushed Mumbai’s Mehtab Singh to the ground and all hell broke loose. Drincic eventually appeared in red, as did Yoell van Nieff for his role in the fight. The hosts managed to get the three points in the end, but it was not a good look for the tournament, which is celebrating its tenth season.
Earlier, despite the muggy conditions, there were long queues outside the Mumbai Football Arena before kick-off, with traveling fans comfortably outnumbering home fans. There were also a surprisingly high number of police personnel, perhaps because Nita Ambani and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach were in attendance, and that ensured a high-profile feel for the match.
The action on the field, however, was not too exciting in the first half, as both teams tried to keep pace for most of it. The clearest chance came in the ninth minute, when Mumbai striker Diaz got a through ball from the right of the box, but Sachin Suresh parried it from close range.
Chants of “Saachinn…Sachin” sound all too familiar in Mumbai and once again there were plenty of them as the Blasters goalkeeper stood solidly in goal.
However, around the half-hour mark the home team took control and continued to press on both sides. They were rewarded very soon when Díaz hit the ball after some tough defending by the visitors.
Blasters started the second half more aggressively and ended up finding the equalizer in the 57th minute when Denmark’s Farooq headed in from the center of the area. But his joy did not last long as Ralte put Mumbai back into the lead nine minutes later. It was another difficult goal as the Blasters defenders failed to take control of a seemingly harmless situation.
From there, it seemed like there was more pushing and shoving between the players than good plays. Mumbai managed to do enough to hold on as coach Buckingham cornered his players after the final whistle.
Kerala, who had beaten Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC in their first two matches, slipped to fourth position in the points table. While the Islanders, who had beaten NorthEast United before drawing with Odisha, moved up to second place.
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