ND Opara’s header proved to be the difference between the two sides, in a game that saw few opportunities being created by either side….
Mumbai FC edged 1-0 past a toothless United Sikkim side in a round eleven I-League encounter at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. ND Opara opened the scoring in injury time of the first half, with the away side unable to find a reply.
The hosts started with ND Opara and Yusif Yakubu upfront, as Evans Quao dropped to the bench, alongside Abhishek Yadav.
Nathan Hall, in his first game in charge, named D.G Attivi upfront, with Nuruddin Salau playing just off him.
The game started cagily, as neither side was able to string a few passes together and dominate the match.
The first chance fell fortuitously to the away side, as Michael Rodriguez’s long range free-kick deflected off Salau to wrong-foot Luis Barretto. However the deflection had taken the pace off the ball, and the goalkeeper was able to collect it, as it trickled towards goal.
Linekar Machado had the next chance in the game, but he met Abhishek Das’s quality cross with a very weak effort which went well off-target.
Gabriel Fernandes replied with a long range effort of his own, which went marginally wide, with Monotosh Ghosh beaten.
A corner that followed soon after gave Mumbai FC their next big chance to get a goal, but United Sikkim somehow managed to scramble the ball clear.
Ashutosh Mehta was then played in by Yakubu, however he dithered infront of goal, to allow Sandesh Jhinghan to put in a goal saving tackle, something that the United Sikkim defender had to repeat soon after, when it seemed Gabriel Fernandes was destined to get a clear shot on goal.
When the hosts finally managed to by-pass the defender, Monotosh Ghosh bravely came off his line to foil Yakubu’s effort to lob the ball over him.
With Khalid Jamil’s side piling on the pressure, United Sikkim were finding it difficult to retain possession. Nicholas Rodriguez then came agonizingly close to opening the scoring, as his free-kick from the edge of the box was tipped onto the bar by Ghosh, with Yakubu unable to direct the follow-up on target.
Just when it looked that the hosts will head into half-time with nothing to show for their superiority, a Nicholas Rodriguez cross was met with a thumping header by N.D Opara at the far post, assuring Mumbai FC of the lead heading into the break.
The second half began in a rather dull fashion, as neither side really tested the opponent’s goalkeeper, with the hosts content to hold on to their lead.
In a bid to freshen things up, Hall sent in Budiram Tudu and Shahensha Ansari into the fray, but the North-East outfit were finding the hustling and harrying of the hosts too much to deal with, as they weren’t able to create any chance of note.
It was infact the home side that had the first real opportunity of the half, as the game ticked towards the 80th minute mark, as another brilliant free-kick by Rodriguez came off the bar. Kamaljeet Kumar collected the loose ball and floated in another good cross, which was met by Yusif Yakubu. The veteran’s header went just wide off the mark, touching the post on it’s way out.
The last ten minutes of the game passed without any incident of note, as United Sikkim were unable to find a way past a stubborn Mumbai FC rearguard.The win saw Mumbai FC climb to fifth on the table, while United Sikkim stay one place above the relegation zone with 8 points.
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