The home team summoned their marquee player Nicolas Anelka from the technical area a quarter of an hour from the final whistle, but only when the team was in a commanding situation at 2-0 against the table topper FC Goa in the Indian Super League match at the D.Y.Patil Stadium on Sunday. The sound of whistles resonated from the stands when Anelka appeared near the centre touchline, but the decibel level was generally high to indicate the presence of a good number of spectators at the venue. It certainly reached a crescendo when star striker Sunil Chhetri made no mistake when offered a deal ball situation from the spot, some twelve minutes from half time, and when Frenchmen Frederic Piquionne thrust his head while lunging forward to get his team’s second goal three minutes into the second half.
After the 2-0 win against Delhi Dynamos in the second home match, Mumbai City FC clearly seemed to have found their feet in order to remain a potent player in the league. They won by two goals to none when they could have got more. The ground staff did excellent work to keep the pitch in a decent condition after a sharp spell of rain, one hour before the start of the match.
Chhetri had underpinned the value of each and every player contributing to the success of the team, and a good crowd of 23,000-plus had the opportunity to see the likes of Chhetri leading the show with fine support from the likes of Haitian Sony Norde, Gabriel Fernandes, Piquionne and a host of others. They posed innumerable threats to the Goan citadel and had it not been for some calm, cool and courageous work under the bar by Laxmikant Kattimani, the Zico-coached side would have been many goals down.
Clearly, Chhetri playing upfront with Piquionne (he replaced Subash Singham) in the starting line up, was the playmaker. The left wing played his part, with the Indian and Haitian demanding attention with some smart play, but it was a volleyed centre from Gabriel Fernandes on the right in the 33rd minute that found Piquionne brought down by Raju Gaekwad inside the penalty box area. The referee pointed to the spot and Chhetri beat Kattimani by dumping the ball to the bottom corner, but perhaps with some slice of luck Kattimani may have punched it away while making a low dive to his right. Thereafter, Chhetri directed a ball towards Piquionne running towards the penalty area; and once again the Goa goalkeeper put up a brave show, winning the one-to-one with the French striker. Earlier, Kattimani had made an acrobatic save to keep away a Chhetri attempt after he had taken control of a superb throw-in from Ashutosh Mehta.
Even the home team’s India goalkeeper Subrata Paul had some work to do in both halves, but he was not as much under pressure as Kattimani was right through the match. While Paul escaped seeing a poorly targeted shot from Victorino Fernandes, Kattimani was beaten on the left when Piquionne managed to keep a defender away and connect the cross from Spanish midfielder Juan Aguilera in the 48th minute.
Thereafter, the technical table was kept busy with many substitutions.Frantz Bertin, Selim Benachour and Anelka came in for Piquionne, Aguilera and Norde. FC Goa, too, made three substitutions after conceding two goals. The visitors made some serious tries, but at the end of the match, only goalkeeper Kattimani could claim to win local admirers for his excellent work as the last man of defence. With their second win, Mumbai City FC has climbed to the sixth position.