Pranjal Banerjee won the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Best Referee award last year at the inaugural AIFF awards in Mumbai. He is considered India’s best match official with even K.Shankar, who serves as Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Referee Development Officer, singling him out as the best India has to offer. S.Suresh, India’s only Referee Instructor at the AFC, has heaped praise on Banerjee.
He has been listed on the FIFA panel and has served as one of the four officials in 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
On Sunday evening at the Mumbai Football Arena, Banerjee got it all wrong. Not the first time this season as he was the one who deemed Sandesh Jhingan to have handled the ball in Chennai and awarded a penalty.
Gerson Vieira tackled Mark Sifneos and the resultant free-kick was taken by Courage Pekuson almost immediately. Not only was the set-piece taken from at least five yards or so ahead of the designated position, the ball wasn’t static at the time of taking the free-kick. Add to that, Iain Hume was in an offside position as he went past a standstill Mumbai City FC defence.
As soon as Hume scored, the first reaction of the Canadian was to turn back and look at the referee to check if he had allowed the goal to stand!
Mumbai players were left distraught after the decision as they protested with Banerjee however, their remonstrations fell on deaf ears.
Kerala had scoring opportunities to add to the score-line but for the wasteful Pekuson. It wouldn’t be unfair to state that Mumbai players lost their composure on the ball with the usually calm Achille Emana too being guilty of overdoing things by himself.
Everton Santos couldn’t get the better of Lalruathara, who was the pick of the defenders for the visitors. Chekiyot Vineeth’s introduction helped as Kerala found a lot of space on the counter as Mumbai over committed players in attack.
An aspect which Mumbai certainly need to improve upon is their delivery from wide areas. Sanju Pradhan and Abinash Ruidas couldn’t deliver crosses into the box and when they did, it wasn’t threatening.
The best opportunity of the game came through Leo Costa whose shot hit the woodwork, much to the disappointment of the assembled Mumbai fans. Guimaraes needs to hand the Brazilian midfielder a start as he brings some purpose and creativity to the side.
Mumbai have been poor travelers in the ISL and they need to make their home matches count starting this midweek against Bengaluru FC.