In front of their fervent home crowd at DY Patil Stadium, Nerul, Coach Des Buckingham made one change to his Islanders’ playing XI from the squad that faced Al-Hilal SFC in the away leg of the AFC Champions League.
Taking a defensive stance, Rahul Bheke was drafted into the line up, replacing Vikram Singh in the attack. Phurba Lachenpa stood as the guardian between the sticks, while Tiri, Mehtab Singh, Rahul Bheke, and Mishra formed the defensive wall for the Islanders. Griffiths and Van Nieff manned the midfield, with Greg Stewart and Apuia orchestrating the plays. Chhangte provided the width on the wings, while Jorge Pereyra Diaz led the line.
For the opponent, Head Coach Jorge de Jesus fielded a strong lineup with Ruben Neves coming in centre alongside Aldawsari and Kanno. Aleksander Mitrovic who scored a wonderful hattrick in the away leg led the front line once again.
Mumbai City FC made their intentions clear from the opening whistle, launching a fiery attack from the very first minute. Jorge Diaz had an early attempt from just outside the box, but it was deflected by Kalidou Koulibaly. Moments later, Chhangte found Greg Stewart with a brilliant ball, the latter’s shot from a tight angle forced a save from AL Hilal Keeper, resulting in a corner for Mumbai.
Moments later, Diaz had another chance when he went through on goal, but his shot was blocked by Al Hilal’s goalkeeper, Alowais once again coming off his line to deny the Islanders the lead.
Al Hilal soon showed their attacking prowess, with Michael Delgado testing Phurba Lachenpa from the center of the box. Minutes later, Hassan Tambakti unleashed a long-range effort that sailed over the bar. A corner from Kanno found Malcom, who headed just wide of the goal as the scoreline remained 0-0.
Around the 23rd minute, Ruben Neves displayed his quality with a brilliantly taken shot on the volley from the edge of the box, but Lachenpa made a fantastic full-stretch save to deny the visitors. At the other end, Apuia sent a dangerous ball forward with a outside the boot pass, that Diaz looked to get on to however, Al Hilal keeper comes of his line to clear the danger away just in time.
Al Hilal continued to attack as Michael Delgado showcased some impressive dribbling skills, beating a couple of defenders to enter the box, but his cutback was expertly blocked by Tiri. Al Dawasari came close with a quick one-two with his teammate before driving into the box and taking a shot that was tipped over the bar by Lachenpa.
At the other end, Mumbai won a corner, and Stewart’s ball into the box was cleared away but only as far as Tiri stationed outside the box. Unfortunately, Tiri’s shot went over the bar. Mumbai had a couple of chances on the counter, with Chhangte releasing Diaz through on goal, but the striker failed to beat his marker.
Mumbai started the second half brightly, with Tiri sending Diaz through on goal, but the linesman’s flag indicated an offside. A few minutes later, Diaz won the ball in the middle of the field and sent a long ball forward for Chhangte, who tried to cut in and take a shot, but his attempt was blocked.
At the other end, Neves drove into the Mumbai box and set up Aldawsari with a delightful cutback, but the latter’s tap-in attempt went wide. In the 57th minute, Mehtab received a red card after picking up a second yellow of the game for a foul on Ruben Neves during a counter-attacking move by the visitors. Despite being down to ten men, Lachenpa made a stunning save to deny Al Hilal, parrying a curling ball from the wings.
Finally, in the 62nd minute the deadlock was broken, Al Burayk sent in a teasing ball from the left wing into the Mumbai box, allowing Michael Delgado to ghost in behind Mishra and head home the opening goal of the night.
The goal seemed to unleash a new life in Al-Hilal’s attack as Mitrovic had a chance in the 66th minute to double the lead, but his shot was saved by Lachenpa. In the 70th minute, another of Mitrovic’s shot hit the post and came back across the goal line, narrowly avoiding the goal.
Coach Des Buckingham made couple of chances in search of equalizer as Vikram Singh replaced Jorge Pereyra Diaz, while Chhangte was substituted for Vinit Rai.
However it was Al Hilal, who continued to attack. In the 79th minute, Al Hilal had another attempt. Hassan Tambakti’s shot on target was well saved by Lachenpa, and the ball fell for Mitrovic, who headed it wide from close range.
In the 83rd minute, Michael Delgado won the ball on the wings and drove forward in attack. He entered the box, beat his marker, but his touch was a bit too heavy, allowing Lachenpa to get his hand on it. The rebound fell to substitute Nasser Aldawsari, but his shot went high and wide.
A short corner for Al Hilal in the 84th minute saw Malcom Oliveira cross the ball to the far post from inside the box. An unmarked Mitrovic at the far post headed it on target to make it 2-0.
At the other end, Vikram made couple of good runs on the wings, winning a corner, but Mumbai failed to test the Al Hilal defense as the game eventually ended with the visitors taking home all three points.
Mumbai City FC now heads into the international break, and upon their return, they will resume their AFC Champions League campaign as they face Nassaji Mazandaran on November 28.
— Arunava Chaudhuri | arunfoot (@Arunfoot) November 6, 2023
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