Mumbai FC manager Khalid Jamil played a chasing game all through the last season before narrowly surviving relegation. A 2-3 loss against Pailan Arrows in the season opener wasn’t the best start for his team and they will be keen to make amends when they take on Pune FC in the first Maharashtra Derby here Thursday.
The Mumbai team checked into Pune four days ahead of Thursday’s match to help themselves acclimatise better.
In sharp contrast, Pune FC are riding high on their thrilling 3-2 win against ONGC FC in their opening match -- their best-ever season start in four appearances since 2009.
The home side began with a setback when their prized acquisition James Moga was rushed to hospital due to stomach illness. But Subhash Singh, who was drafted in for Moga at the eleventh hour in the starting line-up, gave a good measure of himself as he combined well with Shrikanth Ramu to create chances in the right wing.
Mumtaz Akhter was aggressive upfront and paid the price for it as he picked up two yellow cards against ONGC which had left the home team to negotiate 15-odd tense minutes with only 10 men on their field.
But skipper Douhou Pierre and seasoned mid-fielder Chika Wali, who went in as substitute late in the second half, made sure no harm was done to Pune FC, which had seen their 2-0 lead vanish before seasoned striker Shanmugham Venkatesh slotted in the winner in the 71st minute.
It was good to see Jeje Lalpekhlua eager to work his way through the rival defence.
“I was relieved to get full points from the opening match. We have been having tentative openings for three seasons, so this was a good result,” Pune FC coach Derrick Pereira had said after the match.
Coming into Thursday’s match, the new signing of Khanthang Paite on season-long loan from East Bengal, should boost Pune FC further. With Moga still a doubtful starter and home-grown Nikhil Kadam still recuperating from injury sustained during the Federation Cup campaign, Paite remains the best choice for Pereira to start with.