ISL: Emana-Balwant pair boost Mumbai’s chances

When Mumbai City FC meets Kerala Blasters at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday, all eyes will be on Achille Emaná who quietly slipped into Diego Forlan’s role.

Achille Emaná, also from the 2010 World Cup batch (hosted by South Africa), is a first-timer in ISL 2017-2018, signed for a 10-month contract estimated to be in the range of Rs 2 crore.   -  AP

Diego Forlan, wearing jersey number 10 for home side Mumbai City FC along with the captain’s armband, had made opponents Kerala Blasters FC turn pale yellow in a 5-0 rout at Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) last season in the Indian Super League (ISL). India international defender, Sandesh Jhingan, who saw the Uruguayan striker’s hat-trick from close quarters, will now keep an eye on Achille Emaná on Sunday.

Emana, less flashy than Forlan, is more effective as a scorer.

Nine appearances for Mumbai this season resulted in only a solitary goal off a penalty kick by the African World Cupper, but his presence on the pitch has been fruitful for his teammate, Balwant Singh.

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Balwant built a rapport with the senior and together, the contrasting pair of class and bustle unlocked every defence and can be relied upon for a repeat show.

Mumbai’s 5-0 rampage over Kerala, piloted by Forlan, included a powerful headed goal from central defender Lucian Golan, promoted as captain in ISL 2017-18. The tough-tackling Romanian was among ISL season three teammates; lucky to have watched the Uruguayan in full flow.

Emana can control the ebb and flow of play. Four assists, 14 attempts at goal, 19 crosses, 360 passes and 443 ball-touches is a huge body of work by one player in nine games.

Balwant, highest Indian goal-getter in ISL season four (five goals), showed respect for the Cameroon’s touch and vision with an emotional celebration during a previous game. He crouched in front, bend his knee and took Emana’s right feet in palms and knelt in salute.

2010 World Cuppers on Indian adventure

FIFA World Cup 2010’s Golden Ball award-winner, Diego Forlan, played one season with Mumbai City FC for a four-month contract. He also represented Uruguay at World Cup 2002 (co-hosted by Japan/South Korea) and 2014 (Brazil). The forward came with a reputation, after stints with Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Manchester United to name a few. He was a free agent after ISL 2016 till Hong Kong club Kitchee signed him.

Achille Emaná, also from the 2010 World Cup batch (hosted by South Africa), is a first-timer in ISL 2017-2018, signed for a 10-month contract estimated to be in the range of Rs 2 crore. The Cameroon midfielder has donned club colours of Real Betis (Spain), Toulouse (France), Al Ahli, Al Wasl (UAE) earlier.