Mumbai City FC player-cum-manager Nicolas Anelka seemed to have too much on his plate on Sunday. Starting a game for the first time this season, the Frenchman failed to find his feet on the field and faltered while reading the Atletico de Kolkata tactics, losing 1-4 on the back of a classy hat-trick by striker Iain Hume.
With three consecutive wins, Mumbai were the team on the rise. A win on Sunday would have taken them to the top of the table in the Indian Super League (ISL). It was the kind of enviable form with which they entered the field.
Anelka’s entry, though, appeared to have left the forward line in disarray. Starting as a forward in front of Sunil Chhetri, Sony Norde and Subhash Singh, Anelka failed to align well with the trio, who had forged a successful partnership thus far.
Anelka drifted to the left, and sometimes to the right. The game plan seemed too convoluted. The 36-year-old looked awkward at times, failing to even keep the ball on target. Chhetri, who has been the star of Mumbai’s campaign thus far and leads the league’s goal-scorers’ list, hardly found himself within striking distance. Norde too tried a few solo runs, but with no one providing support, he couldn’t make much of an impact. A sturdy Kolkata defence did not help matters either.
The lack of co-ordination in attack left the backline vulnerable. Kolkata, who were desperate to reverse their slide, capitalised on the counter. Hume, who was ISL’s Golden Ball winner last season, led the charge for Kolkata. He positioned himself perfectly for nearly every counter-attacking move by his team. The first move resulted in their opening goal, as Hume slotted home a tricky volley to give his side the lead in the 34th minute.
Subhash, who had thus far impressed with his runs, was forced to fall back on many occasions due to the changed setup. The tweaks, though, appeared to have left him out of sorts. His ill-advised tackle on Jamie Cavilan resulted in a penalty at the stroke of half-time. The ball was coolly slotted in by Hume. A chastened Anelka made three changes at the break. Substitute Selim Benachour answered his manager’s call with a goal in the 71st minute to bring the home side back into the game. However, it took Kolkata three minutes to restore their two-goal lead as Augustine Fernandes successfully converted another counter-attack. Hume completed his hat-trick five minutes later.