NorthEast United moved a place higher in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2015 standings as they downed Mumbai City FC 2-0 at home. The win takes them a point clear of David Platt’s FC Pune City with three games left before the knockout stages. Bruno Arias and Diomansy Kamara were the saviours for Cesar Farias’s side who came into this game following a 4-1 humiliation by Kerala Blasters.
There were a host of changes made by marquee manager-player Nicolas Anelka as defensive trio of Darren O’Dea, Ashutosh Mehta and Lalchhuanmawia were dropped after their 7-0 drubbing in the previous game against FC Goa. Former Portsmouth star Frederic Piquionne too saw himself start on the bench as Anelka and Sunil Chhetri led the line for the away side. Rowilson Rodrigues, Thangjam Singh, Frantz Bertin and Aguilera all came into the playing XI.
Farias, on the other hand, changed seven outfield players for the game, with Simao and Nico Velez being the most noticeable names. Alan Deory, Sanju Pradhan, Robin Gurung, Silas and Lopez also saw themsleves settling for a place on the bench following the 4-1 home drubbing by Kerala Blasters in the previous game. Raju Yumnam, Bruno Arias, Seityasen Singh, Siam Hangal, Francis Dadzie and Kamara all came into the side. The Venezuelan coach also handed a debut to Victor Mendy.
The 20,000 odd supporters witnessed a rather dismal show for much of the first half as both the teams preferred to keep possession in the midfield. Though there were numerous half chances created from the two sides, none really threatened the two custodians on either end of the pitch.
Debutant Mendy showed guile and pace as he often troubled the Mumbai defense, playing right behind the striker, but the end product was often disappointing. The away side too had their moments with Selim Benachour in particular proving to be an influential figure on the field. His through balls to Anelka were threatening but the NorthEast defense was upto the task.
His cross in the 37th minute to Chhetri should have resulted in the opening goal of the game, and despite the Indian captain getting past his marker, he failed to test Rehenesh TP in the NorthEast goal.
The home side were finally rewarded for their continuous pressure as Seityasen Singh was brought down inside the box. The Indian midfielder saw his darting run put to a halt by Rowilson Rodrigues. The Mumbai player was also booked for his poor challenge.
The spot kick saw the home side score the first goal of the game as Bruno Arias slotted home the kick into the right corner. It was the Spaniard’s second ISL goal, as Farias and his team rejoiced. That was the last action of the half, as NorthEast went into the break with a foot closer to the play-off places.
The second half kicked off with Mumbai coming in strongly. Anelka and Chhetri combined well a minute after the restart but Rehenesh anticipated the danger well and collected the ball on his second chance. Five minutes later, NorthEast created a chance of their own but Seityasen Singh’s double effort from inside the box paid no benefits as Subrata Pal did well to parry away the ball. Farias and Anelka both decided to alter things as Velez and Subhash Singh came in respectively.
The drab evening had little chances but Kamara and Velez’s poor understanding near the hour mark saw NorthEast squander a glorious chance to double their advantage. The Frenchman ultimately hit a weak shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Velez continued to be in the thick of things but his poor conversion rate left Farias fuming in the dug out. Anelka though could have capitalised minutes later when Mumbai created their best chance of the evening but the former Chelsea striker missed the far post by a whisker.
Attacking changes were made by the two men as Sony Norde and Simao came in to change the course of the game. It was the home side though that ultimately benefited from the change as Simao played provider for Kamara to score the second for NorthEast. The forward took advantage of some poor defending and poked the ball into an empty net to seal the game.
Simao could have provided his second assist of the game when his free-kick was headed in by Cedric Hengbart, but the defender’s goal was ruled out for offside.