KOCHI: Amine Chermiti struck late winner as Mumbai City FC scraped to a 1-0 victory over Kerala Blasters in their 2019/20 Indian Super League opener on Thursday at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
The match seemed to be heading for a drab draw, but the Tunisian striker struck the only goal of the match in the 82nd minute to settle the contest.
Home fans who showed up in numbers hoping to see a dominant performance from Kerala, had little to cheer about in the first-half, as a keenly contested but frustratingly scrappy battle developed between the two sides.
The hosts looked the most likely to open the scoring with Bartholomew Ogbeche threatening in attack and well supported by Moustapha Gning and Sergio Cidoncha.
Despite some good build-up play and probing runs, Kerala couldn’t get behind the well organised Mumbai defence and the particularly impressive Sarthak Golui at the centre of it.
While Kerala laboured in search of their feet, Mumbai established a comfortable rhythm whenever they found themselves in possession making it tough for their opponents to impose their game.
It was a positive and spirited performance of Mumbai in the first-half, which fully deserved at least one goal. Chermiti led the Mumbai offensive efforts but like his opponents, couldn’t find a way to break down that final line.
Following a scoreless opening half which failed to produce many clear goal-scoring opportunity, Mumbai continued to be the better side, controlling the pace of the match with accurate passing at the back and probing attacks at the other end.
Albeit displaying plenty of technical ability with eye-catching combination plays the Mumbai attackers were guilty of straying offside on several occasions.
Kerala weren’t without chances of their own, but between some solid defending and the safe hands of goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, the attackers were unable to get an edge on their opponent.
The Kerala players seemed to be more keen on playing direct football sending long balls from the centre-line as Mumbai intelligently and stubbornly defended their area.
And with the home team pressing forward, their could always be the chance the other way, materialising when Chermiti slotted home from close range in the 82nd minute after the Kerala defenders failed to clear an Shouvik Chakraborty cross inside the box.
The match started to become a little tenser as the clock counted down with Kerala showing great determination in their pursuit of an equalizer, while Mumbai players tried to kill the game’s rhythm and they did what they needed to secure three points.
Kerala were left frustrated by the result as they clearly dominated play and failed to convert their scoring chances rather Mumbai stopping the team from scoring.