Anelka: I don't think I will come back

The ex-French international, who is a player-coach, accused his charges of a lack of fighting spirit after a 1-1 home draw against bottom-placed Kerala Blasters on Thursday night effectively ended their season.

Mumbai FC team football player and coach Nicolas Anelka during Indian Super League football practice session.   -  H. Vibhu

Nicolas Anelka has no desire to return to the Indian Super League for season three. Replying to the question on his future plans as Mumbai City FC marquee player/coach, the French World Cupper was clear that his stint at India is almost over, barring the three matches remaining for the home team. “The target was to reach the top four and that was no respected. I don’t think I will come back. You have to speak to the team management about it.”

After an impressive season one, injury delayed Anelka’s return into the squad this season. By the time he recovered to play 90 minutes, Mumbai City were already on a losing streak. Asked about his role as a player in the side, he said: “As player maybe, I don’t know. I need to rest and then take a decision.” He took a step back from playing to remain as head coach and was not even listed in the match sheet for Thursday’s home tie at the D Y Patil stadium.

Haiti defender Frentz Bertin captained Mumbai City in the 1-1 draw against visitng side Kerala Blasters. Needing a minimum of three points to remain in contention for a semi-final berth, Anelka’s squad failed to grab the opportunity against an under-confident Kerala side. The Blues are now one place away from bottom, with three matches remaining in the league stage.

The visitors, led by England’s Peter Ramage in defence, went home with one point, after they squandered a series of chances to snatch the game away from the home side. The highly-rated foreign strikers Joao Coimbra (Portugal), Chris Dagnall and Antionio German (both England) were the major culprits behind the lack of goals. Head coach Terry Phelan replaced Coimbra with in-form Mohd Rafi in the second half and wily attacker Josu Currias with C. K Vineeth.

Rafi’s entry in the 71st minute, Vineeth eight minutes later did not change the equation as misses followed opportunities for last year’s losing finalist. German’s 88th minute goal helped the visitors draw level, but the raids on Mumbai City goal, manned by substitute custodian Debjit Majumder in place of first-choice Subrata Paul, fell short on lethal finishing.

Phelan explained: “We always like to attack, like in the previous games. We are always coming to attack, we created good chances, maybe more than them. It just wasn't there.”

Asked about Rafi coming off the bench in the second half, the Kerala coach said that the decision was taken before the team played NorthEast United. “Rafi has been great, but we made the change to the team before we played North East. Chris (Dagnall) and Antonio (German) played exceptionally well and deserved to keep their place. Of course, Rafi is disappointed, because he wants to play, and he really has done nothing wrong.”

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