| Mumbai FC’s Mohammed Rafi attempts an acrobatic side volley as East Bengal’s (left) Arnab Mondal and Naoba Singh look on, in Pune, on Monday. Picture courtesy: AIFF |
Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal, on Monday, suffered their first away loss in an Airtel I-League match at the Balewadi Sports Complex, in Pune. They went down 2-3 to a 10-man Mumbai FC.
For Mumbai FC, Yusif Yakubu, Ahmad Hatifi and NP Pradeep were the scorers. Cavin Lobo and Ryuji Sueoka were on target for East Bengal.
The win helped Mumbai FC climb one spot above Mohun Bagan to No. 10 position in the table after 11 matches. East Bengal are just above Mumbai FC, at the ninth spot with 11 points.
A win against Mumbai FC should have boosted East Bengal’s confidence ahead of the bigger battles on hand. With four away matches on the trot — the red-and-gold-brigade play against Rangdajied United FC, Salgaocar SC, Bangalore FC and Churchill Brothers — three points could have proved to be crucial.
Coach Armando Colaco missed the services of midfielder Mehtab Hussain and James Moga. Still the Edeh Chidis and Sueokas should have come up with a better show against Mumbai FC.
Coach Khalid Jamil gave Yakubu his first start of the season after having roped in the seasoned striker recently. The move paid dividends as the Ghanaian gave the hosts the lead in the second minute.
A speculative long ball was swept home by the forward, who chased it like a man on a mission. Using the space in the box, Yakubu brushed aside defender Arnab Mondal and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, past a diving Abhijit Mondal.
In the 16th minute, a sumptuous Yakubu cross from the right was met acrobatically by Mohammed Rafi but the finish was just wide. Ten minutes later, a Yakubu shot was initially parried away by Abhijit.
East Bengal, on the other hand, tried their best to conjure up an attack. But the Mumbai FC defenders held firm and kept the opponent strikers at bay.
East Bengal finally found the equaliser through Cavin Lobo. The midfielder ran through the middle in the 32nd minute, dodging past two defenders before unleashing a powerful shot, which beat Mumbai goalkeeper Nidhin Lal.
But Mumbai FC had different ideas on Monday. They never gave up and soon took the lead again.
Yakubu ran amok after he got the ball on the right. After running for almost 25 yards, he sent a cross for Hatifi, who directed the ball into the goal. The ball hit the inside of the right crossbar before settling at the back of the net.
The second half began like the first with East Bengal's midfield failing to string passes together. Naoba Singh, on the right, was a disappointment, being guilty of heavy touches.
Barely two minutes in, Yakubu trapped down a great ball onto the path of an onrushing Pradeep. But the midfielder failed to control his shot from the edge of the box.
With the red-and-gold-brigade failing to build up any attack at all, they were hit with the classic sucker punch in the 65th minute when the dynamic Nicholas Rodrigues sent in a beautiful curling ball from the right. Pradeep, this time around, beat Okpara in the air to head home the ball.
With 10 minutes to go, East Bengal were handed a life line when Hatifi was booked for the second time for nudging Sueoka.
In between, Chidi had smashed a shot from outside the box while Sueoka had failed to play in the final ball after getting into promising situations.
The Mumbai FC defence finally caved in the 87th minute when Sueoka's close-range header found the back of the net..
However in spite of their relentless search for the equaliser with three minutes added on, Jamil's side held strong and came out with all three points after a gritty display. Sandjar Ahmadi, who had come on late as a substitute, had to be however taken to the hospital as he had breathing problems.