"A Red Carded Affair": Mumbai City FC vs Mohun Bagan SG Match Review

Imagine this. You are an avid fan of Indian football. You eagerly wait for the Indian Super League fixtures to come out. Once the fixtures are out, you look for the best matches, the big ones. The matches between the perennial toppers, a clash which demands to be witnessed by millions. You mark that day out, set a reminder and finish off all work. You sit down to watch the match, with high expectations, after all, these two are the only teams who have both the money and vision to create a strong squad and compete for the title every year. Two teams who have given us so many memorable encounters. Two teams who are expected to go at each other from the get go. You're ready, the team sheets are out. You watch the whole game, a brilliant game of football. But you remember only two things from the match. 7 red cards. Yes, it's not a typo. 7 red cards in a game of football. And of course, you remember the referee's name. Mr. Rahul Gupta. AIFF's best referee.

Courtesy : MBSG Media

Let's begin from the beginning, shall we? Well, Sahal didn't travel with the team due to an injury concern, which was justified. The gaffer opted for a back four, deviating from his usual back three, to negate the threats of the pacy wingers on the Mumbai team. Vishal Kaith started in goal and he was guarded by a back four of Subhasish, Ashish, Brendan Hamill and Hector Yuste. The midfield trio consisted of Anirudh Thapa, Hugo Boumous and Deepak Tangri. Upfront, Jason Cummings started along with Manvir and Liston.

The match began as one would have expected it too. Both teams looking to attack. Mumbai looked threatening, especially with Chhangte and Bipin on the wings. A few shots on goal, including long rangers from van Nieff didn't trouble Vishal Kaith too much. The match was still in it's infancy, nearing the 15th minute mark. And calamity struck. Akash Mishra put in a horrible tackle on Manvir Singh. Well, was it a tackle? A challenge? Probably a kung fu or karate move from a film he had seen the other night. Whatever it was, it wasn't football. It was rash, it was wreck less. Yes, there will always be a few who will defend that, like our esteemed English commentators who were ready to swear that it was not a grave challenge. Ask your morality, if that challenge had connected, would it not have caused severe damage to Manvir? A severe long term injury? Remember Neymar's injury vs Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. Do we want our stars to be on the wheel chair now, in the name of club rivalry? A deserved red which should also result in multiple match ban. 

With Mumbai down to 10 men, the onus was on Mohun Bagan to pile on their misery. And so they did. 24th minute, Liston made a darting run on the left and put in a low cross. Cummings had the simplest task, tap it in from 5 yards out. And so he did. 1-0, Mohun Bagan.

Drama again unfolded in the 29th minute. Subhasish thought he had scored off a header at the near post, but the assistant's flag on the far side went up, indicating he was off side. The game looked to drift away and away from Mumbai's grasp. But then, they reminded everyone why they are one of the best teams in India. When any other team would have surrendered to Mohun Bagan, going into a shell, Mumbai coach Petr Kratky had other plans. A slick move down the left meant Bipin could cross it into the box. Gregg Stewart overpowered his markers and scored a great header past Kaith. While we are not sure if it can be called the goal of the tournament so far, it sure came as a big jolt to the Mohun Bagan team. Still it was 1-1. With an entire half of football left. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot. In India, players' quality, skill, tactics all comes second. First comes the mood of the referee, once they have lost the control of the match, it can transform into a circus very soon. And so it happened. 54th minute. Ashish Rai put in a rash challenge on Jorge Diaz. A bad tackle, one that probably summed up his time at Bagan since the move from Hyderabad. Not too many complaints followed as he marched off. 10 men versus 10 men. Parity restored. Well not for long.

56th minute, Subhasis put a slide tackle on Apuia. A hard tackle, maybe deserving of a card, maybe not. Replays didn't clear it. But what we clearly saw was, Liston was unhappy with the decision. He got agitated, maybe said a few words. And the result? A red card. Here we would like to draw your attention to something. You are a referee, a professional referee, you know the ups and downs this job has. Players say stuff all the time, you can always warn a player, you can have a talk. It's not about your personal vengeance, it's not about you. It's about the players, it's them whom the audience want's to see. Brandishing a red card is very easy, but spare a thought for the player, for the team, for your own integrity. Would he have given the red if he had already not sent off two players? Maybe not. Indian referees need to understand, they are not here to make the headlines, a football match should not be talked about because of the referee, it just doesn't bode well.

10 vs 9. And soon the inevitable happened. Bipin Singh cut inside from the right and unleashed a powerful shot. The shot deflected off a Thapa before ending at the back of the net, past a hapless and helpless Vishal Kaith. 2-1. End of drama you thought? Well, think again. 

Stewart was booked earlier on, and was shown a red card in the 87th minute, this time for diving. Stewart departed the pitch, not before showing a very obvious but unfortunate signal to the referee. A game of four read cards. 9 versus 9. Surely no more reds, right? RIGHT?

Mohun Bagan kept on pushing for the equalizer, with Kiyan and Dimi coming off the bench and pushing for a goal. Kiyan came close, but saw his shot saved by Phurba Lechenpa. 

The game ended 2-1 in favor of Mumbai, and then drama unfolded. Rahul Bheke went and gestured to the Mohun Bagan fans to keep their voices down, something which was not liked by Hector Yuste. Both got into a tussle which then saw Vikram Pratap Singh getting involved. All the players had to be drawn apart, as it was ugly to see. The result? A red card for Yuste, Vikram and Bheke. Vikram especially was probably the most deserved red of the match. A young player with lots of potential, discipline has always been his number one problem. Unnecessary fights and getting into arguments where he shouldn't open his mouth, has all but put his great talent to shame. Do we expect our young players to be like this? Kiyan Nassiri, Suhail Bhat, Suresh Singh, Naorem Mahesh, so many young players have come and are now flourishing because of their humility and discipline. Talent doesn't mean much if you are gonna fight and disrespect your opponent and the opposing fans in the name of banter. Disgusting scenes. Repeated offender. Duly punished.

And well, it was our first defeat of the current ISL season. A game which promised so much, especially when it was allowed to flow. But, allowing it to free fall into a circus, didn't just make a mockery of the refereeing standard in India, but it also made a mockery of the AIFF. This is Vision 2047. No funds for VAR. No funds to educate referees. No funds to organize youth leagues and build academies. But just enough funds to be earned in the name of football development. Another brilliant game disgraced by the referee, but that's what you would expect in this country, won't you?


So, let's begin the match ratings. Vishal Kaith had a mixed day, or should we say, a mixed season. Sometimes he shows glimpses of his form last season, while at times he's just clueless. A modest 5/10 performance.

Next up, the defenders. Hamill looked solid and dependable as usual. Deeply involved in the team's quest to win, he get's a 6/10. Subhasish and Hector both get a 5/10. Subhasish had a goal ruled out for offside, but apart from that he was pretty average. Hector, though solid, has been beaten for pace on a number of occasions now. A paltry 5/10 for both. And lastly, Ashish. His time at Mohun Bagan has been topsy turvy to say the least. In some matches he's absolutely top class, while he fumbles in the other games. A rash tackle saw him get a straight red, which means he's out versus FC Goa. A 5/10.

Next up, the midfield. Well, we couldn't control the game. The midfield lost shape once we were down to 9 men, and again showed all of us why we desperately need a defensive midfielder in the winter transfer window. Thapa gets a 6/10 along with Deepak Tangri, but Hugo gets a 5/10 in a match where much rested on his shoulders.

Now the forwards. Cummings scored the goal which was created by Liston. Both of them looked dangerous and could have scored again, only if Liston had not been red carded. Cummings too got substituted eventually. A 6.5/10 for both. Manvir was returning after a slight injury, and though he tried a few shots, he couldn't trouble the scorers. A 6/10 rating.

Among the substitutes, Dimi and Kiyan looked the most dangerous and should start the game versus FC Goa if we are to have any chance to win. A good 6/10 for both while coming off the bench. Sadiku, Ravi Rana and Sumit all got their chances, but couldn't do much on a troubled night in Mumbai. A rating of 5/10 for all.

And finally, the gaffer Juan Ferrando. Juan needs a plan B. We can't escape the reality that we struggle against quality teams. Be it Basundhara from Bangladesh or Mumbai or Odisha, once the opposition team understands our gameplan, we are toothless in both attack and defense. No inspiration, no tactics, we have been dependent on individual brilliance for too long now. This is Mohun Bagan. We win by defeating our opponents on merit, not by riding on our luck every game. We need the team to function like before, during the early season phase. Whatever it takes, must be done. The market is never short of good quality coaches, and the coach should never forget that. Our rating- 5/10.

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