Mumbai FC pulled out all the stops to score a well-merited come-from-behind 2-1 victory over a listless East Bengal in a 13th round I-League match at the Cooperage inMumbai on Saturday.
They had earlier beaten the same opponents by a 1-0 margin in the first leg in Kolkata.
The Kolkata brigade took the lead through the evergreen Yakubu Yusif in the 13th minute from a penalty, awarded by Services referee A Rowan after striker Ishmael Addo was tugged down at the edge of the box by Kamaljeet Kumar. Rowan, who gave some strange decisions against Mumbai FC, later overlooked a couple of penalty incidents that could have gone the local team's way.
The home side drew level with a superb headed goal by India hitman Abhishek Yadav two minutes after resumption from a cross by medio Kuttymani.
Ghanaian striker Abel Hammond and man of the match then scored the match-winner after receiving a superb through pass from substitute Alex Ambrose to finish off a superb counter-attack in the 89th minute.
Mumbai FC move up to 22 points from their sixth win but continue to occupy fourth spot on the table. On the other hand, East Bengal, who crashed to their sixth defeat, remain in eighth place with 13 points.
Subhash Bhowmick's reign at the red & gold headquarters has begun inauspiciously in the second leg and the three-times NFL champions were outplayed for the greater part of the game. The timidity of the visitors was aggravated by the inefficacy of their star players like veteran Alvito D'Cunha, Yakubu and their colleagues.
Only when Sanju Pradhan came in for the Goan stalwart and Yakubu fell behind to essay the role of a playmaker that East Bengal begin to look threatening on the counter. But that too occasionally.
East Bengal did have a couple of occasions to swell their tally in the second half courtesy some slack defending by the locals but first Addo lobbed over the bar with Kalyan Chaubey out of his charge and then Yakubu hit weakly and straight to the custodian after a fumble by stopper back James Dissiramah.
Mumbai FC's 4-3-3 formation and strategy to play three robust strikers upfront paid off today unlike in their home match against Mohun Bagan a week ago. They were able to continually pressurize the East Bengal defence who had to keep an extra man (Meherajuddin Wadoo) behind to ward off the triple threat. This told on their attacking intent. The absence of Sunil Chhetri in the line-up, although he was present at the venue, also deprived the East Bengal attack of their bite.
While India goalkeeper Subrata Paul deserves credit for having kept East Bengal in he game with some vital saves and interceptions, he was at fault when he came out to meet the Kuttymani cross and missed, allowing Yadav to nod the ball in.
Mumbai FC did not rue the couple of chances missed by Felix Aboagye, especially when he shot weakly to Paul from point blank range just before the break. They were also lucky that midfielder Riston Rodrigues, who was rushed off to hospital after injuring his face while heading the ball away, recovered and is reportedly out of danger.