Mumbai City defeats Kerala Blasters 2-1 in an indisciplined affair
Mumbai City continued their unbeaten streak against Kerala Blasters at the Mumbai Football Arena since 2018 on Sunday as they defeated them 2-1 in the 2023-24 season of Indian Super League. Jorge Pereyra Diaz put the Islanders in the driving seat before Danish Farooq equalized and Apuia Ralte scored the winning goal in the second half.
Des Buckingham made two changes to the Mumbai City side that lost 3-0 to Navbahor in the AFC Champions League. Tiri sat on the bench as Rahul Bheke took his spot in the Mumbai City back four. Meanwhile, Bipin Singh returned to the starting line-up to take the place of Vikram Pratap Singh in the wings.
Kerala Blasters also made two changes to the side that beat Jamshedpur 1-0 as head coach Ivan Vukomanovic continued to serve his ban from the sidelines. Vibin Mohanan took the place of Mohammed Aimen while Dimitrios Diamantakos forced the underperforming Kwame Peprah to sit on the bench.
Mumbai City sloppily cleared the ball away and Danish Farooq let loose a shot from distance in the 3rd minute with his first touch. However, it sailed inches above the crossbar as the home fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Greg Stewart threaded a lovely through ball in the final third and Diaz tried to chip it past the Kerala Blasters goalkeeper with his first touch. However, Sachin Suresh made himself big enough to narrow down the angles and prevent the shot from crossing the goal line in the 9th minute.
Adrian Luna’s cross two minutes later spelt danger for Mumbai as it aimed towards Daisuke Sakai in the far post. However, the Japanese winger was a second late to reach the ball as it flew past him.
Diaz was once again called into action in the 40th minute when Apuia dummied Bipin’s low cross and it reached the Argentine. However, his final shot was a tame one and Sachin Suresh collected it with ease.
In the dying embers of the first half, Sachin spilt Rahul Bheke’s cross and Pritam Kotal fluffed in clearing the lines as well. Diaz was at the right place at the right time to tap it home into an empty net and send the home fans into euphoria.
Kerala Blasters started the second half on an ascendancy with Diaz marauding down the left flank and crossing it aerially towards the center. Diamantakos tried to angle his shot with his first touch but it was off target in the 53rd minute.
The Blasters continued targeting the left flank with Sandeep Singh going up on the overlap four minutes later. Farooq timed his run to pierce the two Mumbai City central defenders and nodded the ball into the net.
Kerala Blasters’ joy lasted only a few minutes as Mumbai City regained the lead in the 66th minute. Milos Drincic’s mistimed clearance resulted in the ball going into the box and Pritam Kotal failed to head it away as well. Apuia sneaked from behind and headed it home as Sachin came out of the line but failed to collect the ball.
Luna’s cross in the 79th-minute spelt danger once again in the game as substitute Pepreh found his head at the end of it in the near post. However, his final shot was off target as the Islanders held on to the slim one-goal lead.
The game ended on an ugly note with both Mumbai City and Kerala Blasters players unable to control their temper. Drincic dashed at Mehtab Singh as the latter tumbled on the ground. The referee brandished a straight red card towards the former as Blasters were down to ten men in the 10th minute of the second half. A direct red card was also shown to Yoell van Nieff who retaliated against the Kerala Blasters players.
The referee blew his full-time whistle as Mumbai City walked out of the Arena as 2-1 winners. The ISL goes into a two-week international break as the Indian national team participates in the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia.
Mumbai City will take on Al-Hilal on 23rd October in Saudi Arabia in the AFC Champions League with a fixture against Hyderabad in the ISL to follow on 28th October. They are second on the points table with two wins and one draw and are one of the three unbeaten sides in the tournament.
Kerala Blasters suffered their first loss of the season but continue to occupy the fourth spot with six points from two games. They are still unbeaten at home and would love to maintain the momentum when they take on NorthEast United and Odisha in the last ten days of October.