I League: Pawan helps Mumbai FC hold Bagan to a draw

Aided by an outstanding show from goalkeeper Pawan Kumar, Mohun Bagan were forced into a points split by Mumbai FC in a defence-oriented away game in the Hero I-League 2016 at the Cooperage stadium.

Players fight to head the ball, in Mumbai FC's goalless draw against Mohun Bagan.

Mohun Bagan were forced into a points split by Mumbai FC in a defence-oriented away game in the Hero I-League 2016 at the Cooperage stadium.

Handicapped by the absence of attacking midfielder Taisuke Matsugae (injury) and winger Jayesh Rane (on India duty at South Asian Games), Mumbai FC executed coach Khalid Jamil’s ploy of denying Bagan’s fearsome strikers Sony Norde, Glen Cornell a clear look at goal.

Norde and Cornell were policed by a phalanx of defenders, with Pratik Chowdhury in front to mop up passes. Mumbai FC’s collective effort gained them a point, and against a side of Bagan’s calibre, this was a good result for the home team.

Pawan Kumar capped a solid work by the backline with two saves (a third was punched away).

Katsumi Yusa had got the best chance to score a goal, but could not beat Pawan: after a corner kick for Mumbai FC was cleared by the Bagan defence, the ball was floated away from danger. Norde, then, latched on to the ball, outpaced his rival, turned around and laid a precise pass diagonally into space for Katsumi to trap, get into balance and shoot. The Kolkata fans roared in anticipation of a goal, but custodian Pawan proved unbeatable.

Bagan started off by testing the home team defence with long balls from around the centre-line, but was not allowed time to build up moves by the quick tackles.

No change in scoreline

Pawan, under the Mumbai FC bar, rescued his team with a dive at full stretch, keeping out a stunning low drive by Bikramjit off a stray ball. The Mumbai FC goalkeeper, again, got into position to pull off a composed collection when Norde tried to curl in a free-kick, leaving both sides to walk off at half-time without any goals to show for effort.

Bagan got more chances in the second half, as anxious Mumbai FC players lost possession more frequently. Pradeep picked up a booking for a needless foul on Norde. Pratik was substituted after an outstanding show as holding midfielder, ahead of the defence. Asif Kottayil came on as replacement. Ashutosh Mehta replaced Srikant Ramu in defence, while Bagan replaced Bikramjit with Souvik Chakraborty. But it made no difference to the scoreline.

Matsugae, with his blond head, was a prominent face missing in Mumbai FC backline. N. Pradeep was given leadership responsibility for the yellow-and-blue. Japanese Katsumi wore the captain’s armband for the maroon-and-green.

The goalless draw put the defending champions, Bagan, in third place - with 11 points after five games - and behind Bengaluru FC and East Bengal. Mumbai, the home team, aided by this outstanding show from Pawan, has nine points after six ties.

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