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ISL 2018-19: Well-drilled Mumbai City FC prove top-4 credentials in Bengaluru win

09:43 GMT+3 28/01/2019
Mumbai City v Bengaluru FC, Indian Super League
Jorge Costa's side delivered a calculated performance at home to hand Bengaluru their first defeat of the season...

The long winter break in the Indian Super League (ISL) has seemingly not affected Mumbai City FC. The Islanders were on the money from the word go against a strong Bengaluru FC side on Sunday.

In what was their first match after the season resumed, Jorge Costa's men delivered a resolute performance that saw them run out 1-0 victors. The Islanders did not see much of the ball and defended compactly. But they were lethal on the counter, through which Paulo Machado scored the match winner.

Mumbai City certainly have proved their credentials and coach Jorge Costa is right when he says his side deserved more in the reverse tie as well. They went down to 10 men and still dominated the Blues in Bengaluru.

What makes their victory even more startling is that they achieved it with veteran defender Anwar Ali in the line-up. It must be noted that the former JCT centre-back was only making his second appearance this season and completed 90 minutes for the very first time. Mumbai were missing the services of Joyner Lourenco who picked up an injury in their final league game before the break.

In fact, the hosts could have at least scored three more goals if not for the wastefulness of Modou Sougou upfront. Bengaluru defence was caught napping on several occasions and the absence of Nishu Kumar at left back was felt.

Rahul Bheke, standing in for Nishu, was found wanting against the pacy and physical Arnold Issoko. The Congolese had a lot of joy venturing forward on the right wing, especially on the counter-attacks where Mumbai were lethal.

The fact that Bengaluru FC had just the one shot on target during the entire game despite enjoying around 65 per cent possession showcased how effectively Mumbai defended.

Costa's men nullified whatever little attacking threats Bengaluru offered with strong defending in the box. In fact, Bengaluru sorely missed Miku, in the absence of whom they have looked less sharp up front.

They were getting the results in Miku's absence before the break but their performances were not up to the mark, specially up front. They do not seem like the 'dominating' team they are when Miku is not playing.

For Mumbai, Machado ran the midfield. He flew into tackles and was always snapping at the heels of Bengaluru players while defending. The Portuguese was always willing to support his attackers as well when Mumbai poured forward too. His energy levels have been commendable and infectious.

This win was extremely vital for Mumbai City, given that they had to play five teams in the top-six in their remaining six matches prior to Sunday. It had put them at a slight disadvantage in the run for the play-offs. But a morale-boosting win over Bengaluru FC will certainly give them confidence that they can see the task through and qualify for the play-offs. 

In the end, a cold and calculative performance ended Bengaluru FC's 11-match unbeaten run but it also heralded the making of another such run from Mumbai City. The Islanders are now unbeaten in nine games themselves.

They might have flown under the radar, but they have flown quite far.