Mumbai City FC endured a 1-0 loss to Al-Jazira FC on Wednesday, at the King Fahd Stadium. The Islanders put up a great display against the Emirati champions, but were unfortunate to walk away without any points.
Head coach Des Buckingham made three changes to the line-up, opting to bring in Mohamed Nawaz in place of suspended Phurba Lachenpa, Vignesh D replacing Mandar Rao Dessai and Brad Inman in place of Vikram Partap.
Despite a consolidated start, Mumbai City suffered a setback within the first five minutes. Amey Ranawade went to ground due to an injury, and had to be replaced by Mehtab Singh.
Al-Jazira got their first chance of the game in the 9th minute, due to some confusion in defense. Neither Ahmed Jahouh, nor Mohamed Nawaz was able to clear the ball properly. As a result, the ball fell outside the box, and a rebound was taken immediately. There was no danger to the goal, as the ball skidded well wide of the frame
The team regrouped and showed good spirit, as the men in blue posed a strong threat in the final third during the next 10 minutes.
The first shot on target came in the 17th minute, when Bruno Oliviera was denied by Mohamed Nawaz. Abdullah Rahman dinked in a peach of a ball to Bruno, who had peeled away from the defense. He took the shot, and our custodian did well to get down for the save.
Mumbai’s first chance came 10 minutes later through Bipin Singh. Jahouh took a quick free-kick from deep, finding Diego Mauricio with the outside of his boot. The #33 shrugged away a couple of challenges and played the ball into Bipin who ran into the box. His shot came from an angle, and was saved by the keeper.
Another chance came just a couple minutes later, starting from a throw-in on the left flank. The ball was worked into midfield, and Jahouh waved his magic wand to set up Bheke in the box. The full-back ran bombed ahead, and met the ball with a volley. Both the assist, and the shot were pleasing to the eye, but the attempt sailed over the crossbar.
Nawaz was called into action in the 37th minute, and he made a fine stop yet again. Diaby released Bruno into the box, and the forward crossed it in. Mehtab stuck a foot out, but the contact wasn’t clean and the ball fell to Mabkhout. The forward played it back to Diaby on the edge of the area, who took a ferocious shot aimed at the corner. Nawaz reacted well, and got his hands to the ball to push it away for a corner.
However, the relief was short-lived as a penalty was given in the very next minute. Once again, it was Diaby on the end of it. His shot was blocked by Jahouh, and the deflected ball glanced off Mehtab’s fingers. The referee pointed to the spot, and Mabkhout stepped up for it. His penalty was aimed towards the right, and was met by Nawaz but it was too strong to be saved.
There was a penalty shout on the other end of the pitch, only couple minutes later when Diego Mauricio was clearly brought down by Zayed in the box. Surprisingly, the referee deemed it to be a dive and chose to book Mauricio instead.
Al-Jazira also made a change in the first half, bringing off Alattas off for Nawaf in the 42nd minute.
The second half kicked off with a Mumbai City change. Vinit Rai took to the pitch in place of Brad Inman.
Al-Jazira got very close to scoring a second goal in the 47th minute, but it was Nawaz who stepped up once again. Diaby headed the ball on to Mabkhout, who ran down an empty left flank. He rolled the ball in to Al Ameri, who was unmarked at the far post. Nawaz came out and closed his angles, thus blocking the shot expertly.
Vinit Rai received a booking in the 53rd minute for a bad tackle on Serero.
One of Mumbai’s best chances came just short of the hour mark, through a Chhangte corner. The winger delivered the ball into the box, and the keeper failed to deal with it. The ball dipped to Fall who hooked it across goal, sending it back to the wing. Chhangte got the ball back and delivered yet another ball at the far post. Captain Fall had another go at it, opting to go for one of his trademark headers but his shot went agonizingly wide of the goal-frame.
Coach Buckingham made his third change of the night in the 61st minute. Vikram Partap was subbed on for Diego Mauricio. Mandar Rao Dessai and Raynier Fernandes also featured in the game, in place of Vignesh D and Bipin Singh.
The Islanders had another penalty appeal in the 77th minute. This time it was Vikram Partap who was fouled inside the box, once again by Zayed. The defender caught Vikram’s back with his knee, and got none of the ball. The referee, although, saw nothing wrong with the challenge and waved play on.
The indomitable spirit of Mumbai City was evident, as the boys created chance after chance despite all the impediments. Rahul Bheke nearly sealed made it two in two, in the 86th minute through a long rage effort. Jahouh slid the ball to Raynier in the center of the pitch, who played it straight to Apuia. Apuia saw the overlap from Bheke and laid it off for him. The hometown hero drove his foot through the ball, striking it with precision and power. It would have been yet another moment of glory for the Mumbai-born veteran, but the ball clipped the cross-bar and went out.
The final chance of the game came right before stoppage time. It was another Chhangte in-swinger that was deflected, and found its way to the back-post. Raynier Fernandes was there at the right place, and the right time but he failed to apply the finish. The ball rolled weakly to Mourtada Fall, who also was unable to put it past the ‘keeper.
The result puts Mumbai City at the bottom of the group, tied with Al-Jazira on points, but separated by a head-to-head record. They will face Al-Jazira once again on Monday, 18th April at 10:45 PM IST. The match will be played at the King Fahd International Stadium.