Anelka magic gives Mumbai City FC full points against Kerala Blasters

Nicolas Anelka

A moment of magic from Nicolas Anelka helped Mumbai City FC return to winning ways and consign Kerala Blasters FC to a 1-0 defeat at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai tonight. The former French international curled in a superb free kick one minute before half-time that proved to be the matchwinner.

The win helped the Peter Reid-coached hosts move up from the cellar to fifth spot with six points while Kerala dropped to sixth place with four points after suffering their third defeat in five games.

Mumbai could have won by a comfortable margin after striking a purple patch in the second half but wayward shooting by their forwards denied them a big win. Jan Štohanzl blazed over the bar after a nice pass from the excellent André Moritz opened up the Kerala defence in the 58th minute. In the 75th minute a nice cutback from Anelka saw Subhash Singh with the Kerala goal at his mercy but the Manipuri skied his shot.

Hero of the match Anelka was then denied twice in one on one situations by Sandip Nandy who had started instead of player-manager David James under the Kerala bar. And in the dying seconds Nadong Bhutia struck the crossbar with a long range punt.

The match started slowly and was initially confined to the midfield with both defences holding firm. Mumbai forced a flurry of corners but as the first half progressed Kerala took control and put the Mumbai citadel under sustained pressure. However, the return of Pavel Čmovš brought more stability to the Mumbai defence and Deepak Mandal who had replaced Peter Costa at right back, also gave a good account of himself. The dangerous Iain Hume, who toiled hard to get the Kerala attack rolling, was well contained, and Mumbai were easily able to keep a clean sheet.

But the night clearly belonged to the enigmatic Frenchman who curled in a superb free kick over the Kerala wall from about 25 metres out that beat a diving Nandy all ends up. This was his first goal in the Hero Indian Super League in only his second appearance. The free kick was awarded when holding midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed, a replacement for Mehtab Hossain, had fouled Štohanzl just outside the box.

With their campaign back on track, Mumbai now await the arrival of Delhi Dynamos FC on November 5 while Kerala return to Kochi for their first home game against FC Goa on November 6.

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