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Mumbai top the table after ending Bengaluru’s unbeaten run

Mumbai City FC Bengaluru

Mumbai City FC put on a disciplined display to end Bengaluru FC’s 11-match unbeaten record in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19. A solitary goal by Paulo Machado in the first-half proved to be the difference between the two sides at the Mumbai Football Arena on the night.

The result also helped the Islanders dislodge Bengaluru from the summit of the Hero ISL table and claim the spot for themselves. Both teams have 27 points, but Mumbai occupy the top position by virtue of goals scored. The Blues, however, have a match in hand.

The match began with a high tempo, with both teams trying to take control of the match early on. While Bengaluru tried to construct intricate moves with quick short passes in the midfield, Mumbai’s plan of attack involved a more direct route with Paulo Machado trying to play in Modou Sougou or Arnold Issoko behind the Blues’ back-line with long passes every opportunity he got.

The first big chance of the match fell the away team’s way just after the 15-minute mark. Rahul Bheke found Xisco Hernandez’s late run inside the box with a lovely cross. The Spaniard scuffed his volleyed effort onto the ground but the shot was still heading towards the goal. Mumbai goalkeeper Amrinder Singh managed to tip the ball over the crossbar to deal with the danger.

Bengaluru seemed to be on the ascendancy in the match, but it was the Highlanders who would go on to take the lead. Following a Bengaluru corner, the clearance fell to Rafael Bastos. The Brazilian did well to protect the ball and initiate a quick counter. Bastos played in a delightful through ball to find Machado’s run down the right. The Mumbai captain wrong-footed Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and calmly slotted the ball past the Bengaluru goalkeeper to put his team in front.

In the reverse fixture back in December, Mumbai finished the match with 10-men after Sehnaj Singh was sent off. The Islanders were lucky not to have suffered the same fate after Souvik Chakrabarti brought down Sunil Chhetri on the edge of the box with an ill-timed tackle. It looked like a dangerous challenge, but the referee signalled for only a free kick.

The away team should have restored parity minutes before the half-time whistle. Bheke played a delightful cross to find Juanan Gonzalez inside the Mumbai box. The defender, however, failed to direct his header on target.

Mumbai started the second-half well and created a few half chances in the opening few minutes. Sougou managed to test Gurpreet with a low shot, but the effort was too weak to trouble the Bengaluru custodian. On the other end, Chhetri found himself with a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box. Unfortunately for Bengaluru, his volley went straight to Amrinder.

After getting caught in the offside trap multiple times, Sougou got a golden opportunity to double Mumbai’s lead just after the hour-mark. The striker was sent through on goal courtesy a clever pass from the left and the flag stayed down this time. One vs one with the keeper, Sougou got his shot off but Gurpreet made a good save to deny him.

In an attempt to find the equaliser, Bengaluru head coach Carles Cuadrat threw in Chencho Gyeltshen and Boithang Haokip in the fray, but the Blues struggled to make any inroads into the Mumbai defence. With their unbeaten record at stake, Bengaluru threw everyone forward in the final few minutes, but failed to find the all-important equaliser.

Bengaluru will host the dangerous NorthEast United FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on January 30, while Mumbai will next be in action at home against FC Goa on February 1.

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