Mumbai City FC’s marquee signing Diego Forlan showed glimpses of his old touch as they tasted a rare away win after putting it across FC Pune City 1-0 in their opening match of the Hero Indian Super League at Balewadi Stadium.
Matias Defederico’s goal in the 69th minute off a Forlan flick was the difference between the two sides in an engrossing Maharashtra derby that saw Pune take control early in the game and Mumbai have the last laugh in the second session.
The teams showed plenty of promise at the start and provided glimpses of their attacking intents. It were the hosts, however, who enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and had clearer chances in the first 45 minutes.
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Pune City had the first look at the rival goal early in the game when a mistimed free-kick saw the ball fall nicely at the feet of Jonatan Lucca but the Italian midfielder’s left-footer lacked the zing to trouble Mumbai goalkeeper Roberto Neto.
Lucca turned provider for Pune in the 10th minute when his cross at the far post saw Izumi Arata rise high to head the ball but under pressure from Mumbai defender Aibor Khongjee, the former international could not beat Roberto under the Mumbai bar.
Mumbai City were playing second fiddle to the hosts in the first quarter and had to wait till the 23rd minute to test goalkeeper Edel Bete. It was defensive midfielder Pronay Halder who did that with a half-volley from just outside the box but Bete was well-positioned to collect the ball safely.
The best chance of the half fell for Gustavo Oberman in the 38th minute. A delightful through ball from the centre saw Oberman beat the off-side trap. It seemed like the goal drought would end for the hosts only for the Mumbai goalkeeper to leave his charge and make a stunning save.
All eyes prior to the start of this clash were focused on Diego Forlan. The Mumbai marquee and joint top scorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa had little to contribute in the first session, although he showed glimpses of the touches that has made him such a renowned striker.
One such touch in the 45th minute saw him find Leo Costa inside the goalmouth but Pune defender Gouramangi Singh made a timely tackle to deflect the shot for an abortive corner-kick.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 69th minute and it was Forlan’s magical touch that made it happen. Aibor’s cross from the right saw Forlan flick the ball towards Defederico, and even before anyone could realise what happened, the Argentine controlled the ball and fired in a low shot which sailed into the net.
Pune had a chance to draw level in the 73rd minute when Lucca intercepted a pass and found Jesus Tato but the Spanish forward could not beat the goalkeeper at the first post.
Another clear chance was wasted when Tato chose to go for glory rather than find an unmarked teammate just ahead of him.