- Justin Grimm
Football Finally Begins, League Opener and Super Cup Played
Image property of the MFF
Because of the ongoing Corona Virus pandemic, it is now almost three months after the originally-planned opening date of 3 April, and football in Mongolia has finally kicked off with the first match of the 2020 MPL season and the annual Super Cup being held earlier today.
Khaan Khuns Erchim FC, the result of a merger between Khaan Khuns Titem and powerhouse Erchim FC, held one spot in the Super Cup match as Erchim FC were last year's cup winners. Ulaanbaatar City earned the right to compete as last year's league winners.
Ulaanbaatar City, under new head coach Vojislav Bralusic, were rustier than they anticipated after the COVID-19 pandemic has put the team's AFC Cup qualifying matches on indefinite hold.
It was certainly a nightmare of a day for UB City as Khaan Khuns Erchim opened the scoring in just the third minute. The goalscorer, Ts. Tumenjargal, went on to score two more for the hattrick. The club added a fourth by Ts. Enkhtur for the eventual 4-0 victory.
On top of the disappointing scoreline, Oyunbaatar Mijiddorj and B. Tserenbayar both left the pitch injured for UB City.
Ulaanbaatar City defeated Erchim FC to win the Super Cup in 2018, but could not repeat the achievement today. In fact, Erchim has won the trophy every year from 2011 to 2017, in addition to their new 2020 hardware.
The Mongolian Premier League also kicked off today with Deren FC and its new Portuguese manager Paulo Silva taking on a new-look SP Falcons.
Deren FC, under the direction of the former VFB Stuttgar coach, was bolstered by the acquisition of several Japanese players over the offseason in addition to Silva's compatriot Evenlon Gomez Toledo Junior. However, the team lost several key players including Gerelt-Od Bat-Orgil, Tsend-Ayuush Khürelbaatar, and Maratkhan Jansyerik.
Unfortunately for Deren, the latter two players joined SP Falcons along with a number of other key signings. The team was, however, without last year's Golden Boot winner David Saviola who returned to the Ivory Coast to play with super club ASE Mimosas.
Despite equal possession, Tsend-Ayuush Khürelbaatar and Maratkhan Jansyerik punished their former team, along with fellow new star recruit Monkh-Erdene Togoldor, who combined for 14 shots on goal.
In the end, it was Togoldor who broke the deadlock from a corner kick to give SP Falcons the 1-0 victory and the first points for any clubs for the 2020 season.
The next MPL matches will be played Saturday as FC Ulaanbaatar takes on Athletic 220 and Anduud City faces Khangarid FC.
The First League will also play an abbreviated season under the COVID-19 precautions. It kicks off tomorrow with Khan-Uul vs. Khovd Western.
It is unclear when the Second League will begin play.
Teams have until the close of the summer transfer window on 3 July to strengthen their squads.