World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan struck a brilliant hat-trick, the first of the season, to power Mumbai City FC to the top of the Indian Super League table with a 5-0 demolition of Kerala Blasters.
Riding on the triple strike from the Uruguayan legend, who combined beautifully with fellow-South Americans Brito Alves, better known as Cafu, and Matias Frederico, Mumbai outplayed Blasters to leapfrog Delhi Dynamos and occupy the top of the table with 19 points from 12 games.
The massive defeat left Blasters in fourth place with 15 points from 11 games.
The Uruguayan striker, also the team’s skipper, scored in the 5th, 14th and 63rd minute to the delight of the home team supporters at the Mumbai Football Arena in suburban Andheri before going off the field.
The fourth goal, a left-footed effort from just outside the box from the very impressive Brazilian medio Cafu “killed” the game effectively as a contest with 22 minutes remaining before Romanian Lucian Goian headed a corner in to round off the tally in the 73rd minute and complete Blasters’ humiliation.
Forlan was in his element from the beginning of the match and brought the roof down with his brilliant twin strike within the first 15 minutes to silence the large number of supporters of the ‘Yellow Brigade’ from the south.
The Uruguayan first latched on to a beautifully weighted lob from Argentinian medio Frederico by running forward to reach the ball and beat rival ‘keeper Graham Stack with an angular shot that bulged the left corner of the net in the fifth minute.
That goal really spurred the home side and especially Forlan on as he unleashed a pile driver from 35 yards out that needed a dive from the English custodian of Blasters who tipped it around the post for a corner.
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri nearly squeezed in a back heel of the flag kick from Forlan but was cheeky try was stopped in the nick of time by Slack.
But Slack had no answer when Mumbai earned a direct free kick off which Forlan scored with an amazing 30-yard effort in the 14th minute, beating the defensive wall of Blasters as well as the English custodian hands down to find the top corner.
The home side pitched the tent in the rival half for most of the opening half after a first minute long range effort by Didier Kadio of Blasters. The Kerala side started to gain possession only towards the end of the first half that ended with Mumbai up 2-0.
In an attempt to beef up the attack, Blasters replaced defender Pratik Chaudhary with Thongkhoisiem Haokip in the second half, but they hardly had a good look at the home side goal barring a couple of occasions.
Blasters goal had another close shave early in the second half when Forlan once again uncorked a direct free kick, from ten yards outside the box after Cafu was fouled, that sailed just wide of the left upright.
Soon afterwards the Uruguayan completed his hat-trick in the 18th minute of the second half, when he was left unmarked following a pass from Cafu and coolly slotted home past Slack, who had a terrible game.
Five minutes later Cafu got into the goal-scoring act by finding the top right corner before Goian headed in Mumbai’s fifth goal.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines