Margao, February 22: SC East Bengal suffered their third overall defeat at the hands of Mumbai City FC in a crucial Hero Indian Super League encounter in the Fatorda Stadium, courtesy winger Bipin Singh’s solitary second-half goal.
With the win, Mumbai City FC climbed to fourth position on the ISL table, with 28 points from 17 matches, and gave themselves a real chance of qualifying for the play-offs. SC East Bengal remain at 11th place, with 10 points from 18 matches.
SCEB missed the services of left-back Hira Mondal and attacker Antonio Perosevic, but still started the game on a bright note, with the likes of Semboi Haokip, Naorem Mahesh Singh, and Lalrinliana Hnamte troubling the MCFC defensive line continuously.
Semboi Haokip got through one-on-one with MCFC goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz midway through the first half, but Mourtada Fall’s challenge led to the attacker hitting the ground. The SCEB team appealed for a penalty, but the referee rejected the claim. SCEB created a few chances afterwards, but failed to find the opening goal.
In the break, SCEB looked the sharper of the two teams, and supporters dreamt of an upset. However, MCFC found their rhythm in the second half and started playing their trademark free-flowing football. The Highlanders were rewarded almost instantly, when Bipin Singh cut in from the right and unleashed a left-footed shot which went between Bikash Jairu’s legs and gave SCEB goalkeeper Sankar Roy no chance at all.
SCEB searched for the equalizer vigorously, almost succeeding when Raju Gaikwad’s overhead kick from inside the box travelled straight towards goal, but goalkeeper Nawaz palmed the ball away. The rebound fell to Fran Sota, whose shot went over the crossbar.
Mumbai City FC also had chances to double their lead, but failed to capitalize. However, the defending champions ensured there were no hiccups from their side as they calmly saw out the game.
SC East Bengal play North East United next on the last day of February, and SCEB coach Mario Rivera will have to sort out the curious case of missing chances in the little time that remains.