Pune City registered a 2-0 win over Mumbai City in the latest edition of the 'Maha Derby' of Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday. An own goal by Raju Gaikwad and a late strike by Marcelinho sealed three points for the Stallions.
Mumbai City FC, who lined up in a 3-4-3 shape, made one change from their defeat to Jamshedpur FC at home soil as right-back Raju Gaikwad replaced Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
As for The Stallions, striker Emiliano Alfaro was demoted to the bench to introduce Marko Stankovic in midfield while winger Isaac Vanmalsawma was dropped to bring Sarthak Golui as they opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Marcelinho, who was operating as the lone striker, took charge of the attack right from the third minute as he perfectly controlled a diagonal ball fed to him and surged into the 18-yard-box. Under pressure from Gerson Vieira, the Brazilian forward hit the side-netting however.
In the 14th minute, Marcelinho yet again threatened the home side’s back-three but his left-footed shot was easily collected by custodian Amrinder Singh.
However, it was in the 18th minute that the visitors got the lead, thanks to Raju Gaikwad. From the right, Sarthak Golui crossed for Diego Carlos inside the box and the delivery hit the body of Maharashtra-born Gaikwad before rolling past goalkeeper Amrinder.
While the hosts saw more of the ball, Popovic’s side showed more intent going forward. Pune’s midfield supplied Marcelinho in abundance but his finishing let him down. As for Mumbai, Achille Emana created several opportunities from the centre of the park but his teammates failed to convert.
Four minutes into the second half, the ever-agile Emana rushed from the centre before playing the ball for former Mohun Bagan forward Balwant on the left. After having an effort blocked, the 31-year-old striker took a shot from the edge of the box towards the top corner but saw it sail over.
The Islanders' efforts to equalise were evident but they wasted two good chances in quick succession. In the 70th minute, an unmarked Balwant released a shot from the edge of the Pune box; his shot deflected off defender Gurtej Singh but an alert Vishal Kaith dived to avert the danger.
Just two minutes later, 22-year-old Thiago Santos was guilty of a terrible miss as his attempt from close-range missed the target.
The Orange Army wasn't withdrawn either; stalwart Marcelinho was released by Jonatan Lucca before the striker released a shot which got the better of Davinder Singh at right-back, in the 76th minute. However, Mumbai’s most reliable player Amrinder pulled off a great save.
The Arjun Kapoor co-owned side doubled their lead in the 83rd minute as Marcelinho registered his name on the score-sheet. Substitute Lucca, who was left unmarked, rushed into the middle before he played the ball for Marcelinho who was positioned on the right. The 30-year-old attacker easily sent the shot past Mumbai in what was the final nail on the coffin.
The victory means that Ranko Popovic and co. have secured 28 points from 14 matches and look set to book a place in the top four. As for Mumbai, their hopes of the playoffs spot was crushed as they registered their fourth straight loss at home.