The euphoria of a sensational start is fast fading for Mumbai FC, who got another rude reality check when they were humbled 0-2 by an astute Air India in a sixth round I-League match played at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Saturday.
Unmarked Soccoro Velho nodded home a low Napoleon Singh free-kick in the 20th minute and striker Subhas Singh wrapped up the issue with a splendid strike in the 33rd minute to help Bimal Ghosh score a tactical victory over David Booth's listless squad, which looked totally pedestrian in the first half.
With their third win the air-men are flying high in second spot with 11 points while the Essel-owned outfit slid down to fourth position with nine points (from five games) after their second consecutive defeat.
The absence of suspended stopper back Selwyn Fernandes forced the English coach to play with a three-man backline and the makeshift combination looked vulnerable after it was put under tremendous pressure as his midfield gave the ball away repeatedly in their own territory.
On the other hand, Ghosh's strategy of all-out attack in the first half clicked as strikers Subhas and Kailash Patil and wingers Velho and Surojit Roy set a crackling pace and created quite a few chances. In fact, Air-India would not have been flattered if they had crossed over with a bigger margin.
The introduction of winger Anees K and medio Subhas Chakraborty [Images] in the second session saw Mumbai FC establish some sort of control over the proceedings even as Air-India sat back, perhaps unwisely, and defended their two-goal advantage. But the losers failed to create enough gilt-edged openings and misfiring strikers Abel Hammond and Felix Aboagye contributed to the sense of doom by failing to capitalize on the half chances that came their way.
In fact, Aboagye missed the first chance of the match in the 15th minute when he failed to turn in a Riston Rodrigues free kick with just Arup Debnath to beat.
The Ghanaian was on target in the 96th minute with a stiff top-of-the-box angular shot but Debnath came up with a stunning save. The agile Air India custodian was in the act again a minute later as he parried another stinger from Kamaljeet Kumar.
The Air India defence, in which man-of-match and captain (in place of the suspended Emmanuel Oveighara) Chukwuma Udofia stood out, gamely absorbed all the pressure and gave nothing away as the clock ran down to record their third consecutive win on their favourite stomping ground at home.