Mumbai City FC secured a key victory over East Bengal in their 17th match of the current 2021/22 Indian Super League season, moving into fourth place in the table and surpassing Kerala Blasters in terms of points.
In the 51st minute, Bipin Singh scored the game’s only goal to put Bengaluru ahead for good. They now have 28 points from 17 games, one more than Kerala Blasters. They also played a match more than the Yellow Army.
East Bengal who were looking for their third win in a row remain on the sixth spot with 23 points from 17 games.
The defeat means East Bengal will not be able to qualify for the play-offs this season barring a series of miracles and losses by other teams in the final rounds. On paper, they have only the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal against Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan to play in a couple of months’ time, but that will hardly solve their lacklustre ISL campaign where they have been under-performing from the word go.
In the first half, it was East Bengal who made all the moves without success till Bipin put Mumbai City FC ahead.
Bengal, who made all their five changes to the side that drew with Gokulam Kerala FC last week, pressed high in the initial minutes but gave away free space to Mumbai’s front three of Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos and Bipin Singh.
The hosts took advantage of this opportunity before the first-half hooter as Bipin’s shot was cleared by Eduardo only to find Sougou, who tapped in from close.
It didn’t take long for East Bengal to equalize after the recess with Katsumi Yusa finding the net but Mumbai City FC restored their lead at the hour mark through Bastos whose header beat Ubaid CK.
The visitors could have equalised minutes later but Jian Ming Tang put his shot wide from a close range. The match ended 1-2 in favour of Mumbai City FC as Katsumi’s second goal came too late for East Bengal to level terms.
East Bengal will now host Chennaiyin FC, who picked up a vital win against Pune City, next week whereas Mumbai City FC will face ATK on Monday.
What transpired in the round?
Bipin Singh hands Mumbai City FC the lead. Brad Inman makes a run down the middle and then finds Bipin on the right flank with a pass. Bipin, unmarked and unchallenged, cuts in from the right side, makes space for himself and finds the back of the net.A brilliant solo goal.
Karan Sawhney provided the perfect second to ensure East Bengal’s blushes were spared. A cross from the right flank is met by Subhash Singh with a powerful header which seems destined for the back of the net but an alert Karan dives in front of it and clears it away. The ball comes in again from the right but this time Subhash manages to head it towards goal. A change of trajectory but Karan is alert enough to react quickly and parry it away for a corner with a full-length dive.
East Bengal have had better chances in the game so far, thanks mainly to increased possession since half-time, but they have struggled to break the Mumbai City FC defence down. In what seems like a recurring theme for East Bengal this season, they have been unable to do anything from set pieces either.
A couple of minutes before half time, Subhash Singh tries to make something happen from another cross from the right but his header is punched away well by Amrinder Singh. The second half started with East Bengal again coming on strong. They had a couple of near misses in the first 10 minutes, mainly through Laldanmawia Ralte’s pace down the left but the final ball was not always up to scratch.
With Mumbai City FC more or less defending their lead, one of their players goes off injured with nearly 20 minutes to go. Half an hour into the game, Khalid Jamil makes his first change. Brandon Vanlalremdika is on for Md Rafique as East Bengal continue their search for the equaliser.
East Bengal are piling on the pressure but they seem less incisive compared to their earlier efforts and it shows in their effectiveness in front of goal, which is still lacking. Mumbai City FC have closed ranks and are whittling away the game steadily while looking for a chance to counter themselves.
The winner comes with 10 minutes left on the clock. A throw-in from the right flank finds Deepak Tangri unmarked just outside the box who takes a shot at goal that is parried by a diving Aizawl. The ball comes to Komal Thatal who dribbles inside from the left flank and shoots from a tight angle across goal. Khongjee, at full stretch, can’t get there as the ball rolls into the back of the net.
Mumbai City FC have not been as free -flowing as they have been this season but there is no denying that they do look more solid than East Bengal. Khalid Jamil’s side huffed and puffed throughout the game but couldn’t break through a tough Mumbai City FC defence, who made life tough for every East Bengal player on the pitch.
The result leaves both teams locked on 9 points with East Bengal finishing the game in fourth place on goal difference thanks to their 3-0 win over Chennai City. Mumbai City FC will be content to have finished third but would be kicking themselves for failing to capitalise on their second half superiority.
The game, had it ended in a draw, would not have affected either side. However, Mumbai City could have finished second if they had managed to win. But it wasn’t to be, so East Bengal will take heart from their ‘third-place’ finish and hope that their game against bottom-placed Chennai City FC nets them the three points that could push them into the top 3.
Mumbai City FC have a chance to qualify for the semifinals with a win against Chennai City FC. East Bengal will play their last game of ISL 2021/22 when they face bottom-placed Chennai City FC in Kolkata on Thursday,