A ROGUE GOAL FROM Matias Defederico was enough to seal an opening night victory Mumbai City against fellow Maharashtrian franchise Pune City at Balewadi tonight.
Playing the home game, Pune City started as favourites, and going by the pace early in the game they did seem more likely to score. Jesus Tato, playing up front, made a couple of darting runs but Goian was marking him closely and stopped him multiple times.
A free kick taken by Bruno in the 15th minute saw Lucca unleash a low shot on target that keeper Robert Volpato saved craftily. Pune attacked again and Oberman's run up the right flank was was diffused by Anwar Ali.
It was the Stallions who were speedy and dangerous but Mumbai City played a patient game, hanging back and letting their opponents wear themselves out. They were occasionally attacking, like Pronay Halder winning the ball from Lenny Rodrigues and feeding Leo Costa whose shot was calmly collected by Apoula Edel.
There were two clear chances for each team in the first half. Pune's were the most dangerous ones but they failed to score and so did Mumbai. The game was 0-0 at half time.
Coming into the second period Mumbai were visibly playing with a higher tempo, attacking the ball more often, even in the opponent half which they did not do much of in the first half. For a while, the two teams seemed to have cancelled themselves out with the game settling for a dull exchange around the midfield. And then came the moment that changed everything.
Aiborlang Khongjee got past two opponent players to get close to the box and passed the ball to Diego Forlan. The Mumbai marquee showed a glimpse of his class and sent the ball towards a perfectly positioned Defederico with one soft touch. And the latter shot it right past Edel. It was a clinical one and a half seconds, and the end result was that Mumbai had taken the lead against the run of play.
After that, Mumbai adopted a heavily defensive strategy that saw them attack occasionally but immediately fall back any time there was an advance from Pune. Pronay lost the ball at one point, and the home team went all out, Jesus Tato had a clear shot at the goal but Roberto made a great save to keep Mumbai ahead.
Towards the end of the game there was a major shout for hand-ball when Ralte slipped while trying to track a ball which hit his outstretched arm. The referee ruled that it was unintentional, and did not award a penalty. That was very much it; Pune's chances of a comeback ended there.
This is the very first time Mumbai City have beaten Pune City away from home. And in terms of Mumbai's campaign this could be a very significant victory. They are playing without five important players and any victory scored here would enable them to capitalize it later in the campaign when the return of their players with fresh legs gives them some solid extra momentum. For Pune City, this loss is gutting; they are running a tight ship and although with new signigns coming in they are likely to gain strength, dropping all points in a game which they clearly should have one may come back to bite them.