Mumbai City’s skeletons out of cupboard against merciless ATK


A rare feat for the Kolkata side and one of their key players helps earn them three important points.

There are football contests where the statistics are so deceiving that if you haven’t watched the match, you would end up imagining something drastically different from what actually transpired.

Take this for example. What if I tell you that Mumbai City had 63 per cent possession, took 20 shots compared to 12 by ATK and had a passing accuracy of 83 per cent, which was 15 percent higher than that of the away side? You would then be hard-pressed to believe that ATK mostly controlled the flow during their 2-0 win in Mumbai on Saturday evening. 

But that’s exactly what happened. Antonio Habas’s team sat deep to starve off Mumbai’s onslaughts and then relied on quick counter-attacks to put pressure on the hosts’ nervy backline. 

Within the first 60 seconds of the match, ATK had set the tone of the tie, having played two deep aerial balls to exploit the space behind the Mumbai defence. That remained their strategy throughout as they enjoyed a numerical advantage in the middle due to their 3-4-1-2 formation.

Jorge Costa’s side were in the driver’s seat for the initial 20 minutes but one attack against the run of the play not only helped ATK take the lead, but also once again pinpointed the very foundational issues the club’s back four has been dealing with. 

A brilliant link-up play between Mandi and Roy Krishna saw David Williams being released in the opponent third with Souvik Chakrabarti being caught out of position. Pratik Chowdhury offered little resistance as the ball was then played into the goalmouth, where an onrushing Pronay Halder reached first to place it in. 

It was the first-ever league goal from open play for the India international who is now playing his 10th season of top-tier football. Even though he limped off with a hamstring injury, forcing Habas to change the formation midway, it only led to ATK tightening their grip on the game. 

Their second goal came as no shock with Williams once again playing the role of the creator. Substitute Michael Soosairaj was afforded some space on the right edge of the box by Pratik and he cut inside quickly to send the ball into the lower corner of the far post. 

Even though Mumbai were much better after the break and created a lot of chances, their shaky defence didn’t really give the midfielders a lot of liberty to venture into very advanced positions. Both teams attacked more through their left channels, with the Sumit Rathi-Soosairaj partnership looking more and more dangerous as the game wore on. 

It was a brilliant performance by the former Indian Arrows player Rathi, who not only pulled off a goal-line save and made the highest number of clearances (10) but also contributed to the attacking moves. 

“The kind of improvement he has shown in the recent past is unbelievable,” Pritam Kotal, the captain of the team told Goal after the match. Pritam also works as a mentor for the youngster, having played in similar positions during his formative years. 

For Mumbai City, it has been a weird season. They are worst among all 10 teams based on the home match point (4) tally while sitting on top of the away match (12) standings. A prominent city newspaper ran a headline ‘Mumbai’s Broken Midfield’ on the day of the game, which seems too harsh for a top four team, but might, unfortunately, be spot-on. The focus now will remain on their winter signings and whether they can add enough ammunition to sail through to the semis. 

ATK, on the other hand, are eyeing for the big prize. “The goal is very clear,” Pritam revealed. “To finish on top of the points table and play the AFC Champions League. I think it will be a great success for the club, but more so for us – the players – as we will be getting the chance to play at the topmost level possible.”

The Kolkata club will closely monitor the injury status of Pronay and Williams but heaved a huge sigh of relief as both goals came from Indians. “We don’t want to be over-dependent on the foreign strikers. The goals should come from multiple players,” Kotal said. The often neglected fact is that ATK has never had prolific Indian scorers in their history and the last time two different Indians had scored in the same match was way back on 10th November 2015. 

But now they are smelling blood and with five of their seven remaining games to be played before the home crowd, they do look best placed to finish top of the table. 


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