Mumbai City FC hold Blasters to goalless draw

Peter Taylor had everything going for him. A handsome victory against NorthEast United in the last game, more than 60,000 spectators loudly cheering the home team here on Saturday and a rival which was in Kochi after suffering a painful loss.

Kerala Blasters' Victor Herrero Forcada (Right) tussles for the ball with Mumbai City FC's player Cristian Bustos during their Indian Super League (ISL) match in Kochi.   -  H. Vibhu

Peter Taylor had everything going for him. A handsome victory against NorthEast United in the last game, more than 60,000 spectators loudly cheering the home team here on Saturday and a rival which was in Kochi after suffering a painful loss.

And Taylor, the Kerala Blasters FC gaffer, was in a mood to experiment in the Hero Indian Super League’s second round today. But it nearly turned out to be a nightmare in the end as Mumbai City FC held the home side to a goalless draw.

Taylor benched local striker Mohammed Rafi, who scored in the previous game, and offered Manandeep Singh a debut. Just last evening, the former England coach had said that he might give Sanchez Watt, who had brought the attack to life soon after his arrival in the second session in the last game, a place in the starting line.

But nothing of that sort happened. And in the end, the home side appeared to be lucky to take a point. Mumbai should be sore, too, for they would have expected a penalty when their French striker Frederic Piquionne, who came in at the 81st minute, was brought down inside the box by the Blasters’ defender Gurwinder Singh towards the end of the match. And moments after his arrival, a shot from Piquionne hit the right post as the home side heaved a sigh of relief.

Watt came in, replacing the off-colour English striker Chris Dagnall in the 71st minute, but it was a little too late. His best chance came in the 81st minute when left wingback C.K. Vineeth moved up and sent a cross. The former Arsenal winger raced in but he fell over the goalkeeper Debjit Majumder who was rushing out.

Mumbai, which played without their marquee player-cum-manager Nicolas Anelka and Brazilian midfielder Andre Moritz, looked enterprising in the opening session and their Haitian forward Sunny Norde often proved to be a problem on the left.

With right wingback Rahul Bheke going to the front frequently, Mumbai chose this channel to advance. And Norde used this road well, making the Blasters defence sweat. His dangerous cross was well cleared by English centre back Peter Ramage in the opening minutes.

A few minutes later, Mumbai earned a freekick when a sliding Gurwinder brought down Norde. The Haitian’s effort was well connected by Subhash Singh but goalkeeper Stephen Bywater was up to the task.

And in the 37th minute, Norde plucked the ball from Mehtab Hossain’s feet on the left and danced his way to the right but he shot straight to the goalkeeper.

Victor Forcada Pulga, the only foreigner to be retained by the Blasters last season, looked good in the opening session. During one exciting moment, in the 20{+t}{+h} minute, the central midfielder dribbled across the field and moved to the right and his long-ranger looked to be dipping in dangerously, but it was tipped over by Mumbai goalkeeper Debjit Majumdar.

Clearly, this was a day defenders from both sides impressed.

Mumbai’s central defender captain Frantz Bertin kept the home striker Dagnall on a tight leash, while his defensive partner Pavel Cmovs kept a close watch on Manandeep. Clearly, the Blasters attack lacked bite. The Mumbai defence had problems in their last game but it was clear that the team had plugged in all the gaps.

For the home side, captain Peter Ramage stood out clearing away danger a few times.

There was a full house and a sea of yellow at the Nehru Stadium but despite all the action, there was disappointment for the fans.