Mumbai City FC registered back-to-back wins for the first time in the Hero Indian Super League with another home win, beating Delhi Dynamos 1-0 at the D.Y. Patil Stadium. It was that man again, Nicolas Anelka, who made the difference, scoring for the second game running to give Mumbai the full three points.
Mumbai coach Peter Reid opted to go in with an unchanged side from the game against Kerala in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Delhi midfielder Hans Mulder wasn’t fit enough to play and his place in the eleven was taken up by Souvik Chakraborty. Pavel Elias came in at right-back while Brazilian Gustavo Dos Santos was chosen to start up front with Danish forward Mads Junker as the Dynamos stuck to a 4-4-2.
There was a setback for Mumbai in the very first minute as their captain Syed Rahim Nabi pulled up on a routine chase after the ball with a groin strain. He came back on after some treatment, but the India international had to be taken off eventually with just 10 minutes played, Peter Costa replacing him at left-back.
Both teams lacked a cutting edge in the first half
The first half was a very cagey affair as both teams looked to size each other up. Delhi had come with a definite plan to stuff the midfield, making it difficult for Mumbai to get their passing game going. They were looking to hit the hosts on the counter whenever the opportunity presented itself. Mumbai themselves, worried about past defensive issues, were playing within themselves.
Jan Stohanzl had a shot on goal in the 16th minute after having made a surging forward run, but his shot was well wide. On 23 minutes, Mumbai got another attack going after some good harrying from Stohanzl resulted in Delhi losing possession. Didika picked up the loose ball and had an attempt at goal, but his effort lacked power and was an easy save for Kristof van Hout.
On the half hour mark, Mumbai had a slight chance after Subhash’s long ball was flicked on by Anelka to Moritz in space, but the Brazilian’s return through ball failed to reach his French teammate.
Delhi too had their chances, mainly on the break. Both Bruno Arias and Dos Santos had long range efforts on goal that went wide. In the 33rd minute, the visitors had a good 3-on-3 breakaway, however, Junker’s cross, to whom the ball was played on the right, was collected easily by Subrata Paul. A minute later, Steven Dias presented Delhi with their best chance as he swung in a beautiful cross from the right onto the head of Junker, but the Dane couldn’t quite control it and headed it over.
A few more chances began to surface as the first half reached its conclusion, the best of them falling to Mumbai. Moritz managed to get into space after nutmegging a Delhi defender and played Anelka through on the left. The Frenchman got into the box, took stock and teased a ball into Subhash’s path. The Manipuri striker though, with a simple finish looming, fluffed his effort and the chance was gone.
They threatened again with a minute to go for the break with Moritz once again creating the chance. He played Anelka on with a lovely through ball, van Hout however, was quick off his line to smother the shot. The whistle went later for offside, but Anelka looked very much on.
The game opened up in the second half
The home side expectedly started the second half with greater vigour in search of the opening goal. Costa got a shot on goal after a long, ranging run down the left. The effort was wide though and soon Dos Santos had an equally good opportunity down the other end as he embarked on a similar run, cut back on his favoured left foot to shoot, but like Costa, his effort was off target.
Needing more incisiveness, Reid made the change to take off Didika and introduce Nadong Bhutia. And the move paid off instantly. The pacy Bhutia began to stretch the Delhi defence and just two minutes later, Subhash broke free down the right after a lovely through ball from Stohanzl. He took the ball in his stride, looked up, spotted Anelka in the box and chipped a cross over. The Frenchman made no mistake, dinking the ball past the onrushing van Hout to break the deadlock.
The goal opened the game up and the play got more stretched with Mumbai having an opportunity to score again every time they broke forward. Another Subhash-Anelka combo almost paid off, but this time Wim Raymaekers put enough pressure on Anelka to put him off. Delhi coach van Veldhoven brought on his marquee player Alessandro Del Piero and Francis Fernandes as his team went in search of the equalizer, Junker and Shylo Malswamatulunga making way respectively.
Mumbai were well and truly in the ascendancy and another good chance came their way as Stohanzl burst through the middle before offloading it to Anelka. The forward cut back onto his right foot and took a shot from outside the box. It took a deflection off the defender and left van Hout flat-footed, luckily for Delhi it went wide.
Arias went close to equalizing for Delhi when he received a good ball from the right from Dias. His effort was blocked off by the Mumbai defence though. Del Piero too tested Paul in the Mumbai goal with a free-kick in the 78th minute.
Mumbai meanwhile were getting ever so close to scoring the second; they had three good chances in about six minutes to put the game beyond reach. First, a Bhutia breakaway down the left found Moritz in the box. The Brazilian cushioned the ball down and laid it off for Stohanzl whose effort was blocked.
Anelka, by now in the thick of things, created another opportunity two minutes later, finding Moritz inside the box after a 3-on-2 break. The Brazilian held off his defender and managed to get a shot in that went wide instead of playing in Bhutia though who would have had a simple finish.
The final chance fell to Subhash, who was through on goal with just a defender between him and Anelka. He however, seemed to be caught in two minds, and ended up producing something that was neither, harmlessly rolling away wide of goal.
Reid was growing increasingly annoyed at his team’s failure to seal the deal and it looked like the missed chances would come to bite them. And it almost did; in the first minute of stoppage time, Delhi had a glorious chance to salvage a point. The impressive Dias once again managed to break away down Mumbai’s left flank and found Del Piero with a brilliant cross. The Italian put his header inches wide from just in front of goal much to the relief of Mumbai and disappointment of Delhi.
Another 1-0 win for Mumbai, and another 3 points for Mumbai to take them to third in the table. The man with the goal, Anelka, for the second game running was named Man of the Match.