Seven minutes enough to score two, three goals: Vikram Partap Singh | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Seven minutes enough to score two, three goals: Vikram Partap Singh

ByDhiman Sarkar, Kolkata
May 03, 2024 06:37 PM IST

Only Indian to score a hattrick in ISL10, the Mumbai City attacker says Saturday’s final against Mohun Bagan is the biggest club game of his career

How do you prepare for the biggest match of your club career? If you are Vikram Partap Singh, with a goal and an assist. It took his tally of goal contributions to 12 (8 goals, 4 assists), the second-highest by an Indian after teammate Lallianzuala Chhangte, this term going into Saturday’s final of the Indian Super League (ISL) against Mohun Bagan Super Giant here. The tally includes a hattrick, one of the three scored in the season, against NorthEast United. Singh is the only Indian to have done that in ISL10.

Vikram Partap Singh of Mumbai City FC celebrates after scoring a goal during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 (PTI)
Vikram Partap Singh of Mumbai City FC celebrates after scoring a goal during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 (PTI)

Mention the goal and the assist over two legs against FC Goa and Singh smiles. “I couldn’t play the last league game (he was suspended). So, I told myself that the semi-final is where I need to show that I can be useful to the team,” he said.

For 90 minutes in the first-leg which Mumbai City won 3-2, they were trailing 0-2.

“The only thought for us was to try and score one goal. We didn’t want to go to Mumbai trailing 0-2. When Chhangte scored, it gave us belief and realisation that there is time for more,” said Singh over a Zoom call. That belief was the key, he said. “Also, no player now thinks the game will end around the 90-minute mark. Sometimes seven minutes are enough to score two or three goals.”

Equally strong was the desire to end the season well. Losing the league shield in Kolkata to Mohun Bagan meant “we had to win the semi-final as we didn’t want to finish with nothing after a good season.” A draw would have been enough for Mumbai to retain the league shield, awarded to the team that tops the standings after 22 rounds of home-and-away games, but they lost 1-2 to Mohun Bagan who can be the second club in ISL history to do the double. Mumbai City F were the first, in 2020-21.

“If there is one thing we learnt from that game, it was: never start a game thinking a draw will be enough,” said Singh. 2-1 results with a win for each team shows how closely fought their games were. Eventful too with seven players, including Singh, shown the red card in the first leg. There too lay a lesson.

“I was angry at myself for not heading to the tunnel as soon as the match ended. I respect the referee’s decision but don’t think I deserved red. The first booking was for time wasting at a throw-in when I felt I had just got the ball and was ready to take the throw. That left me frustrated as it meant I was suspended from the next game.” The second booking was for an altercation after the final whistle.

Mumbai City FC played Champions League this season but that was mainly abut gaining experience against Asia’s best clubs, said Singh. “We can’t say that about any game we play in India. So. this is a must-win and hence the biggest club game of my career.”

Looking back on his best ISL season, Singh said he had had “a different feel about things from the start.” Unlike Des Buckingham, who would use him mostly as a substitute on the right side, coach Petr Kratky played him on both sides and gave him more freedom.

Singh featured in 22 of Mumbai City’s 24 games in ISL and clocking 1252 minutes. “I feel I am more mature now but the confidence he had in me helped,” he said.

Against Afghanistan away last March, Singh got his first start for India. “I can’t call myself a young player anymore. 22 ‘bahut hota hai’. It felt like I was late for my India debut,” he said. The draw and defeat against Afghanistan means it is “time to keep quiet and work, do all the things that gave results last year.”

That will begin with a four-week preparatory camp in Bhubaneswar from May 10. It will also mean little time for recovery after a season ending during a heat wave. “At 22, you can’t say all that. I can play all year,” he said.

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