Mumbai City lost 2-1 to Bengaluru FC away from home in a game that was a hard-fought battle. The Islanders’ unbeaten run since the start of the 2022/23 ISL season came to an end.
Des Buckingham made one change to his starting eleven that secured the stellar 5-3 win against FC Goa that clinched the Shield. Mourtada Fall came in for Rostyn Griffiths in defence. Alberto Noguera, originally named as a substitute, came in for Greg Stewart after the Scotsman suffered an injury in warm up. Phurba started in goal; Mourtada Fall partnered Mehtab Singh in central defence. They were flanked by Sanjeev Stalin and Vignesh in the full-back positions. The prodigious Apuia Ralte partnered the ever-composed Ahmed Jahouh and the creative Alberto Noguera. The Islanders had the prolific duo of Lallianzuala Chhangte on the right and Bipin Singh on the left wing in attack. Jorge Pereyra Diaz was leading the line for the Islanders against the Blues.
Mumbai City FC started the game in sublime fashion as they got into their passing rhythm quickly. They were looking to create chances from the first whistle while Bengaluru FC were sitting back in their defensive shape.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz earned the Islanders first corner of the game in the 3rd minute as he pressed Jhingan to force him to play the ball. Ahmed Jahouh stepped up to take the corner from the left, and he put a great ball in but it was cleared out of the box by the Blues. The loose ball landed at the feet of Vignesh, who scuffled his shot from outside the box.
In the 9th minute the next chance came for Bengaluru FC. Javi Hernandez played an accurate ball into the path of Sunil Chhetri who had made a smart run behind the Islanders’ backline. The Bengaluru FC captain received the ball and bore down on the Islanders’ goal. Phurba had rushed off the goal-line to pressure Chhetri who tried shooting but he failed to connect cleanly with the ball. Lachenpa got a touch on the shot as he rushed out and was finally cleared by Mehtab in front of goal.
The next chance of the game came in the 15th minute for the Blues. Vignesh tried clearing the ball from the right but it deflected off of Siva and landed at the feet of Chhetri right outside the Mumbai City FC box. The Blues’ number 11 then unleashed a low shot that was arrowing into the left bottom corner but was acrobatically saved by Phurba who dived and palmed the ball away. The scores read 0-0 as both teams were looking to create clear cut chances.
By the 25th minute the match had turned into a tactical battle as Bengaluru FC were sitting back in their half as they did not want to allow Mumbai City FC players any space behind their backline to run into. While Mumbai was keeping the ball well but were struggling to penetrate the defensive lines of the Blues.
The next chance of the game came in the 37th minute of the game for Bengaluru FC. Roshan whipped in a dangerous ball from the right flank towards the back post. Sunil Chhetri had made a smart run at the back post anticipating the ball to come. He tried thrashing the ball into the goal at the first time of asking but could not connect as the ball hit his shin and looped up in the air. Phurba comfortably catches the ball as the scores still read 0-0.
The first clear cut chance for the Islanders came in the 43rd minute of the game. Jahouh played a sumptuous through ball from his own half into space on the left side. Bipin had given the slip to his marker on the left wing and tucked inside as he made his way towards the goal with the ball. He broke into the Blues box but failed to slot the ball into net as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stuck a leg out to deny Bipin Singh to put Mumbai City FC ahead in the game.
Soon after the referee blew the final whistle of the first half as he brought it to a close. At the end of the first period neither team were able to open the scoring as it read 0-0 at the end of the first 45.
Bengaluru FC started the second half on the front foot as they were looking to push Mumbai City FC back into their own half. They created the first chance of the second period in the 50th minute of the game. The Blues won a free-kick on the right-flank which was taken by Javier Hernandez. The Spaniard put an excellent ball in toward the far post where he was hoping Rohit could get a touch on the ball to guide in but failed to do so as another chance went to waste.
Mumbai City FC created the next chance of the game in the 53rd minute of the game. Mehtab had made his way forward with the ball on the left flank and he put in an accurate diagonal ball to the right that was controlled superbly by Chhangte. The Islanders’ number 7 then beat his marker skillfully and got the shot away as soon as he broke inside the box, but it was blocked by Rohit who managed to clear the ball away.
Des Buckingham then made the first change of the game as he made a triple substitution in the 57th minute of the game. He brought off Jahouh, Vignesh and Bipin for Rostyn Griffiths, Mandar Rao and Vikram Partap Singh respectively as he looked to tweak his tactical set-up in the hopes of scoring the opening goal of the game.
In the 58th minute however, Bengaluru FC took the lead. Javier Hernandez delivered a perfect curling corner towards the back post from the right. Sunil Chhetri made a run to the back post unmarked and headed the ball in to make it 1-0 in favour of Bengaluru FC.
Mumbai City FC kept the ball well from the restart but were still struggling to open up the Bengaluru FC defence, who were defending their box resolutely.
Bengaluru FC looked dangerous every time they countered and doubled their lead in the 70th minute of the game. Aleksander Jovanovic had made his way forward with the ball. He knocked the ball past Sanjeev Stalin and broke into the box with ease from the left side. He cut the ball back to find the late run of Javier Hernandez in the centre, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 in favour of Bengaluru FC.
In the 76th minute Buckingham made a double substitution in the hopes to inspire a late comeback in the game. He brought on Rowllin Borges and the prodigious Ayush Chhikara for Sanjeev Stalin and Chhangte respectively.
Rowlin Borges had an instant impact as he came on and stepped up to take a corner from the right side in the 77th minute of the game. He put in a looping ball towards the back post which was met by Rostyn Griffiths,who headed the ball back into the danger zone towards the goal. Mourtada Fall had given his marker the slip and got a touch on Griffiths knock down to guide the ball into the net to make it 2-1 late in the game. This Fall’s first ever goal with his feet in the Hero ISL despite being the highest scoring defender in the league’s history.
Simon Grayson made his first change of the game in the 78th minute as he brought off Siva Narayanan for Pablo Perez.
The Islanders came very close to scoring an equaliser in the 80th minute of the game from a free-kick right outside the box. Super-sub Rowlin Borges stepped up to take the free-kick and deceived the goal-keeper as he looked to put the ball into the left bottom corner but the ball missed the target by a whisker.
Sunil Chhetri came off in the 83rd minute of the game for Udanta Singh. The Blues captain had put up a tremendous performance in the game that saw Bengaluru FC leading the game 2-1 as the first defeat for the Islanders in the league this season beckoned.
The last clear-cut chance of the game broke the way of the Islander in the 88th minute of the game. Vikram Partap received the ball on the right-flank and put in a glorious ball towards Jorge Pereyra Diaz in the centre of the box. The Argentine got his head to the delivery but failed to keep it down as the ball sailed over the Blues goal.
The referee blew the final whistle of the game as Bengaluru FC had won the game 2-1 against Mumbai City FC, who lost their first game of the season thanks to resolute defensive performance by the Blues.
The Islanders will take on East Bengal in their final game of the league stage at the Mumbai Football Arena on the 19th of February 2023, the game will kick-off at 7.30pm IST. It will be a momentous occasion for Des Buckingham and his side as the Hero ISL League Winners’ Shield will be presented to the Islanders on the same day.