ISL: Mumbai City edge ATKMB, become first team to seal play-off spot

Players of Mumbai City (blue) and ATK Mohun Bagan in action. Photo: ISL

Mumbai City FC were forced to show a different side to their game, resisting a constant threat on their goal by ATK Mohun Bagan as they sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win in the Indian Super League at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.

It was the league leaders' first 1-0 win in a season where they have raised the bar for attacking football, and it helped them become the first team to confirm a play-off spot this season.

Mumbai City FC picked up from where they'd left off last week, becoming an instant threat at the start with their swift and direct play. Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith faced a barrage of shots and singlehandedly kept the home team from falling behind the way Kerala Blasters had last week. Chhangte was through on goal twice after shaky defending from ATK Mohun Bagan, and in almost both cases was point-blank range from Kaith. In both instances, the goalkeeper came out on top.

In Diaz's absence, Greg Stewart pulled the strings from the central forward area, and soon enough both him and Bipin Singh were imposing themselves on the game as well. The home side, even though they matched Mumbai City FC for possession and got nearly ten shots away in the first half, didn't manage to test Phurba Lachenpa in the league leaders' goal.

Mumbai City FC's relentless attack was bound to cost ATKMB, and ultimately it was an error by Kaith that led to the goal. Kaith had Chhangte's long-range shot from a central area covered, but couldn't muster enough strength with his left arm to tip the ball wide as the visitors went 1-0 up at half-time.

ATK Mohun Bagan brought a lot more excitement to the second half and had the visitors scrambling early on. Liston Colaco had the best of these after being slipped into the right channel and firing towards the far post to force Lachenpa to stretch one-handed to his right to keep it out.

The home crowd was now firmly behind their team, and were almost given something to cheer for in the 58th minute when Ashish Rai cut one across the box for Hugo Boumous, whose first time shot was brilliantly tipped over by Lachenpa. Mumbai City FC showed signs of nerves around this point, and were forced to try and slow down their game. It was then ATKMB's turn to be a relentless threat. Between the 64th and 68th minute, particularly, the team shored up their fans as they took four corners, and forced three close-range saves in a short span.

Boumous was at the centre of most of these plays, without managing to find the net through Mumbai City FC's backs-against-the-wall defending. By the time he fluffed a shot over the goal in the 78th minute, ATKMB had taken 26 shots without success. Only one more was to come as Mumbai City FC held their nerve to ultimately take control and see off the game.

The win keeps Mumbai City FC in first place, and with Hyderabad FC dropping two points earlier in the week, stretches their lead to four points. They face NorthEast United FC at home on January 19, Thursday. ATK Mohun Bagan stay in 4th place, only a point ahead of Odisha FC in fifth. They travel to play Chennaiyin FC on January 21, Saturday.

Players of Bengaluru FC (blue) and Odisha FC in action. Photo: ISL

Clinical Bengaluru beat Odisha 3-1
Earlier on the day, Bengaluru FC clinched back-to-back wins for the first time this season, beating Odisha FC 3-1 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru to signal their arrival into the playoffs race.

Rohit Kumar broke the deadlock before Roy Krishna ended his ten-game goalless streak to double the Blues’ advantage. Diego Mauricio pulled one back from the spot in the opening stages of the second half, but the home side managed to close Odisha FC's pursuit for the major part of the game before Pablo Perez came on to score his first goal for the Blues in stoppage time to wrap up all three points. This was the first time this season that Bengaluru FC scored more than two goals in a game.

Simon Grayson made just one change to his lineup as Sandesh Jhingan came into the Bengaluru FC defence, replacing Aleksander Jovanovic. For the first time in 13 Hero ISL games this season, Josep Gombau fielded an unchanged Odisha FC XI.

Despite dominating possession in the early stages, the Juggernauts were at the receiving end of two quickfire goals. 25 minutes into the game, Javi Hernandez’s cross from the right flank was cut back across the face of goal by Alan Costa, straight into the path of Rohit Kumar, who planted the ball into the back of the net.

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