Monday, March 2, 2015

Improved Mumbai FC take on confident Bengaluru at home

AIFF Media 
 
Mumbai FC will be hoping to build on their winning run when they meet defending champions Bengaluru FC in a Round 9 match of the Hero I-League at Cooperage on Tuesday. 

Bengaluru, who come into this match with a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Sporting Clube de Goa, will be hoping to go to the top of the table for the first time this season with a win over Mumbai. Ashley Westwood’s side, however, will have their task cut-out against a rampaging Mumbai.

Mumbai have looked a completely different side since returning to Cooperage after five years. After a forgettable start to the season, they have stayed unbeaten in their last four games, climbing from the bottom place in the league to sixth right now.

It’s also the first time Mumbai FC have won three consecutive matches since 2010, when they beat Mohun Bagan, Air India and Pune FC. Back then, they notched up their fourth win in a row by defeating HAL and Mumbai would be hoping to repeat the feat they achieved five years ago.

But their opponents on Tuesday are no pushovers. In sharp contrast to their home form, Bengaluru have been confident travellers, scoring more goals and conceding fewer while on road as compared to while playing at home. To Westwood’s relief, their key man up front Sean Rooney scored twice in the win over Sporting Clube, signalling his return to form. Combined with Sunil Chhetri, Bengaluru’s attack will provide a tough test for Khalid Jamil’s side.

Westwood said he was not concerned of playing on the artificial turf at Cooperage. “We seem to be doing quite well on artificial pitches so that doesn’t matter. It’s one of the better pitches we have played on – soft and cushioned. We do not have any fitness concerns and will hopefully get the job done tomorrow,” Westwood said.

But the hosts are confident of another solid performance by their defence. Mumbai’s biggest strength has been their robust defence – central defenders Justin Stephen and Chika Wali have the most number of clean sheets amongst defenders and Nidhin Lal with the maximum clean sheets among the goalkeepers.

Midfielders Jayesh Rane, Taisuke Matsugae and the rest have controlled the proceedings with authority and striker Josimar da Silva has been impressive in the last two outings.

Khalid Jamil’s side has used their superior physicality to its advantage so far but they will be tested by an equally physical side that Bengaluru is. “They are a stronger side physically and mentally. We need to play better to beat them,” Jamil said.