Mumbai FC played an inspiring match to hold Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw in the Round VII encounter of the I-League football championship at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium here on Sunday.
In a match that was billed as contest between the wits of Karim Bencherifa and Khalid Jamil, the Mumbai coach had the last laugh when his boys played riveting football in the second half to first equalize and then restrain their much accomplished opponents from scoring any more goals.
It was Odafa Okolie who had put Mohun Bagan in the lead in the 21st minute as the Mariners dominated the proceedings. Abhishek Yadav found the equaliser in the 62nd minute to give Mumbai FC hopes and no doubt Khalid Kamil’s boys responded then on with gusto.
The draw nonetheless helped Mohan Bagan move up one place to No 5 with 11 points, same as Pailan Arrows. Mumbai FC too moved up to No 8 with seven points, a result that the home team will savour for some time.
With fans from both teams making a beeline—Mumbai FC’s ploy to get in supporters to outnumber Bagan fans paid well as the team seemed to take cue from the stands once the equaliser was scored.
But the start wasn’t as good for Mumbai FC. Mohun Bagan had a plan and Odafa was central to Bencherifa’s set up. The trio of Biswajit Saha, Odafa and Snehashish Chakraborty opened the attack showing good understanding between themselves. Sheikh Jewel Raja moved up and down controlling the ball with panache.
Mumbai FC had little to show at the start, but for striker Evans Quao’s 50-yarder shot that boomed over the bar without causing any stir. On the ensuing corner that Nicholas Fernandes sent in, all missed the ball, but nonetheless it was a textbook shot that should have found a head on the way.
Then there was a defensive lapse from Bagan and Ghanaian striker Yusif Yakubu saw the opening and charged from right. Bagan was lucky as their goalkeeper Shilton Paul just about managed to punch the ball out.
Having tested Mumbai for 20 minutes or so, Bagan found the chance to go up when the rival skipper Haroon Amiri fouled on Snehashish Chakraborty. Odafa was waiting for such an opportunity as he sent a 30-yarder that landed into the top left corner over the outstretched hands of Mumbai goalkeeper Luis Barreto.
Sushabh Chakraborty and Ashutosh Mehta tried to get Mumbai into the match, but their move was spoiled when Yakubu’s cross for Gabriel was wasted when the striker sprawled in front of the goalkeeper while trying to control the ball in the 26th minute.
In the added time of the first half, Quao fired a free-kick that was too good, but the ball kissed the crosspiece much to the dismay of Jamil and his boys.
The second half began with both teams taking time to gauge each other, before Haroon made amends to the foul that earned him a yellow card by sending a free-kick that saw Abhishek Yadav heading in for an equalizer.
Then on it was Mumbai FC which was in the offensive while the Mariners just about managed to save themselves blushes.