Mumbai City FC succumbed to their second straight loss in the AFC Champions League, losing 3-0 to Uzbek side PFC Navbahor. It was a game of two halves as the Islanders dominated proceedings in the first 45 minutes but could not capitalize on their dominance. In the second half, the hosts showed their quality and scored thrice to come away with a comprehensive victory.
Des Buckingham put out a slightly altered team that took to the pitch against Odisha FC in their last ISL game. Phurba returned in goal; Tiri played alongside Rostyn Griffiths in the centre of defence. Akash Mishra started down the left while Mehtab Singh played a changed role at right back. Apuia Ralte was paired up with Greg Stewart and Yoëll van Nieff in the Islanders’ midfield. The attacking trio of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vikram Partap Singh and Jorge Pereyra Díaz led the line against PFC Navbahor Namangan.
Mumbai City started the game by dominating possession from the kick-off. As the Islanders settled into their passing groove, the front four of Chhangte, Pereyra Díaz, Stewart, and Vikram Partap Singh were looking to press the Navbahor players high up the pitch to force errors.
The Islanders created the first chance of the game in the 10th minute of the match. The ball was played out to Vikram Partap Singh on the right wing from the centre of midfield. Vikram then carried the ball close to the by-line to put in a dangerous cross but it went right into the hands of the Navbahor keeper.
Mumbai City FC swiftly created the subsequent chance of the game in the 17th minute. The ball found its way back to Vikram in acres of space on the right wing. He dribbled past a Navbahor defender and put in a sumptuous low cross toward Pereyra Díaz in the centre of the opposition box. Although the ball was a much more inviting one, the Navbahor defence quickly dropped down to quell the chance.
After the 15th minute of the game, Navbahor settled into their passing rhythm as well as their first chance of the game came in the 18th minute of the game. They constructed expertly on their right-wing, as Jamshid Boltaboev carried the ball past Tiri with ease and put in a low cross towards Oston O'runov who unleashed a first-time shot that was blocked expertly by Griffiths and Mehtab as the ball went out for a corner.
The next chance of the game came the way of the Islanders in the 25th minute. Yoëll van Nieff looked to bury the ball from a direct free-kick from a fair distance but the ball sneaked just past the post as the scores remained 0-0.
The Islanders on the other hand looked dangerous every time they attacked. They created the next chance of the game in the 31st minute, as Vikram tried his luck from distance but his powerful shot sailed just over the crossbar. As the Islanders continued their on-slaught they created another chance in the 36th minute of the game, Greg carried the ball expertly from midfield into the final third on the left flank. He crossed the ball towards Pereyra Díaz and Chhangte in the centre but the ball was collected with ease by the Navbahor keeper.
Navbahor conceded a penalty in the 43rd minute as a cross by Vikram from the right-wing struck the arm of Ibrohim Yoldoshev in an attempt to block the cross. Stewart stepped up to convert the spot kick but failed to do so as Utkir Yusupov dived expertly to his right to deny the Islanders from taking the lead.
Soon after the first half came to an end, the scores read 0-0 despite Mumbai City FC showing great ability to carve out chances and retain the ball in midfield, while Navbahor was running out of ideas to contain them.
Navbahor came out for the second half set to recover from late Islanders onslaught late in the first half. The Uzbeki side scored from the first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute of the game. Jasurbek Yakhshiboyev played a precise ball to Jamshid Iskanderov right outside the box from the right side. Iskanderov then unleashed a venomous first-time shot that arrowed into the right top corner past Phurba to hand Navbahor the lead as the scores read 1-0 in their favour.
Oston O'runov looked like a man possessed in the second half as he was dribbling past Mumbai City players with ease and causing all sorts of problems for the back line from the left wing.
In the 57th minute, Des Buckingham made the first change of the game as he brought off Chhangte and replaced him with Nasser El Khayati to rejig the Islanders attack.
Navbahor however continued to create chances and doubled their lead in the 58th minute of the game. Oston O'runov dribbled past Mehtab Singh on the left wing and made his way to the by-line. He put in a laser-accurate ball for Jasurbek Yakhshiboyev in the centre of the Islanders’ box, who tucked away the chance with ease to make it 2-0 in favour of Navbahor.
As Mumbai City FC looked for goals to find a way back into the game, Buckingham made another substitution. He brought on Bipin Singh for Vikram Partap Singh in the 69th minute, hoping to inject some impetus into the Islanders’ attack.
Mumbai were struggling to get out of their own half after conceding the two goals as their midfield looked bereft of ideas of how to tackle the intense pressure Navbahor was putting on them.
The Islanders carved out a rare chance in the 76th minute of the game as El Khayati and Akash Mishra combined expertly on the left wing. El Khayati played in Mishra in acres of space on left wing. He played in an excellent ball towards Pereyra Díaz but the ball narrowly missed the boot of the Argentine as the Islanders failed to capitalise on yet another chance.
Buckingham made another change in the 86th minute of the game as he brought off Apuia Ralte for Gurkirat Singh to put an extra attacker on the field for the last 5 minutes of the game.
Navbahor, however, extended their lead one minute later thanks to a deft finish by their substitute, Doniyor Abdumannopov. He was played in behind the Islanders’ defence by a smart ball by a Navbahor midfielder. After timing his run perfectly, Abdumannopov chipped the ball over an on-rushing Lachenpa to make it 3-0 in favour of Navbahor.
Despite Mumbai City FC throwing men forward in the dying embers of the game to get something out of the game, they failed to do so as Navbahor’s backline stood firm and defended resolutely. Soon after, the game came to an end as the scores read 3-0 in favour of Navbahor, as the Islanders fell to their second consecutive loss in the AFC Champions League group stage.
The Islanders will return to Mumbai and will play next at the Mumbai Football Arena – for the first time this season. The Islanders will look to shrug off the result in Namangan and continue their unbeaten start in the ISL as Kerala Blasters will be in town on Sunday, October 8.