Mumbai City FC entered the semifinals of the Indian Super League’s (ISL) third edition with a 2-0 win over Chennaiyin FC at the Mumbai Football Arena on Wednesday.
Mumbai, eternal bridesmaids in the competition having finished 7th and 6th in earlier editions, are currently top with 22 points with one match remaining.
Led by goals from Matias Defederico and Krisztian Vadocz, the home side defeated Chennaiyin in a match which frequently looked like both teams were playing with the handbrake on.
The match lacked pace and rhythm but Mumbai coach Alexandre Guimaraes will draw heart from the fact that his side can now afford to relax before the semifinal encounters, having sealed qualification. They also have a 10-day gap ahead of their last league match.
For his Chennaiyin counterpart, Marco Materazzi, there is no such consolation given his side is now 7th with 14 points. The Italian manager cut a sorry figure on the touchline, gesticulating angrily at his bench on many occasions.
The Italian slammed the referee in the post-match press conference. “We were not given one penalty. The whole game hanged (sic) at the moment. I admit my mistake when I make one, I think he referee should too. When the referee does not see that a team is playing volleyball instead of football what can you do?” he lamented.
Despite the stop-start nature of the match, one key aspect of the match was the battle between Mumbai’s forwardline --- marquee, Diego Forlan , Sunil Chhetri and Defederico being kept in check by Chennai’s defence, which was marshalled by Bernard Mendy and John Arne Riise.
Having scored a hat-trick in the last match, Forlan looked a tad off-colour with the ball escaping his feet a few times. But it was clear that the Mumbai home crowd adored him in a way they never embraced previous marquees like Freddie Ljungberg or Nicolas Anelka.
Forlan started at the tip of Mumbai’s attack with Sunil Chhetri playing behind him. But the fluidity of the home side meant that Chhetri and Forlan soon swapped roles, the Uruguayan dropping deep to the halfway line to look for the ball, while the Indian striker moved up.
Chhetri soon drifted to the left to exploit the vulnerable Chennaiyin right back Mehrajuddin Wadoo. Chhetri had two more chances in the dying minutes of the match, but both times he shot over the crossbar with only the goalkeeper to beat.