Mumbai City FC secured their place in the 2022 Durand Cup Dinal after defeating Mohammedan SC 1-0 in a gripping semi-final. The decisive goal was scored by Bipin Singh in the dying embers of the game to help the Islanders reach the Final of the 131st Durand Cup, where they will face either Bengaluru FC or Hyderabad FC for the coveted trophy.
Mourtada Fall led the Islanders in the semi-final against Mohammedan SC on his return to the starting eleven. Gurkirat Singh made his full debut as he got his first start for the Islanders. Rahul Bheke, Vikram Partap Singh and Jorge Pereyra Díaz missed out on the matchday squad as they were still recovering from their injuries.
The Islanders started the game with the intention to control the ball and tempo, but Des Buckingham’s side took time to get into their passing groove as Mohammedan SC were dominating the ball in the first quarter of the game.
In the 14th minute, the first big chance of the game came the way of Mohammedan as Abhishek Ambekar tried his luck from distance but Phurba saw the ball fly off-target. Mohammedan SC looked dangerous but Mumbai City FC were able to deal with the early threat the Black Panthers posed.
Soon after, Des Buckingham was forced to make a change in the 21st minute of the game as Amey was stretchered off due to an injury and was replaced by Mandar Rao Dessai.
Mumbai City FC slowly grew into the game as Mohammedan SC were struggling to pin the Islanders back in their own half. In the 29th minute the Islanders were awarded a corner, which was taken by Ahmed Jahouh, whose delivery fell to Mourtada Fall at the edge of the box who unleashed a vicious shot that was deflected behind by a Mohammedan SC defender. The game stood at 0-0 but Mumbai City FC were starting to dominate the proceedings.
As the game went on, Mumbai City FC’s dominion continued as they looked dangerous every time they went forward. Mohammedan SC were struggling to come into the game and were finding it hard to deal with any of the Islanders set-pieces.
In the 32nd minute, Greg Stewart delivered a sumptuous corner from the right which was headed towards Vinit Rai who was making a late run into the box, but was punched away by the Mohammedan SC keeper. The Black Panthers were looking for some respite from the waves of unrelenting attacks from the Islanders.
The final chance of the first half came in the 45th minute, when the scintillating Greg Stewart found Gurkirat with a smart through ball, but the Mumbai City FC number 9 dragged his shot just wide of the target.
The first half ended soon after as the scores read 0-0. Mumbai City FC after some early hindrances had got into a passing rhythm and looked dangerous but some wayward finishing in front of goal meant that despite having all the possession, the Islanders were not able to test the Mohammedan SC keeper.
At the start of the second-half Stewart, Gurkirat and Chhangte were starting to combine well. In the 48th minute, Gurkirat dropped deep to play a one-two with Greg, who found Chhangte on the right wing who delivered a cross right on Gurkirat’s head after he had made a run into the box. His header however flew just wide of the Mohammedan SC goal.
Despite Mumbai City FC’s dominance, Mohammedan SC did look threatening on the counter but were still struggling to test Lachenpa out properly in the Islanders’ goal.
Mumbai City FC’s supremacy was yielding results as in the 60th minute a beautiful exchange between Greg Stewart and Gurkirat Singh, right at the edge of the box, saw Stewart receive the ball in space in the Mohammedan SC box. The Scotsman was denied a great goal due to a world-class save by Mawia in the Mohammedan goal, who made sure the score remained 0-0 at the hour mark.
The next big chance of the game came from a Mohammedan SC free-kick in the 64th minute, which was expertly taken by Marcus Joseph only for it to crash into the side-netting of the Islanders goal, as a diving Lachenpa looked wary.
Finally, the game was slowly coming to life as both keepers had been tested after being relatively untroubled in the first half.
In the 66th minute, Des Buckingham made a double substitution in the hope of injecting the game with fresh legs and ideas, which saw Mehtab and Noguera replace Rostyn and Gurkirat respectively.
In the 76th minute, substitute Alberto Noguera cut inside from the right to slide a through ball to the prolific Chhangte, who shot just above goal. Both teams were looking to break the deadlock as the game started to become an end to end affair
The substitution of Noguera was proving to be pivotal as the Spaniard was dropping deep to provide an extra passing option which the Mohammedan SC defence was trying hard to contain. In the 83rd minute, a sublime skill from Noguera led to a chance for Chhangte, whose shot was deflected behind for a corner. The scores still read 0-0 as regulation time was coming to an end.
In the dying moments of the game, Mumbai City FC decided to commit bodies forward and in the 91st minute, the deadlock was finally broken. Greg Stewart released Chhangte into open space on the right with a delightful lob. Chhangte made his way into the box and tricked the keeper with a sly through ball to Bipin who calmly slotted the ball home, to give the Islanders a well-deserved lead as the scores read 1-0 in favour of Mumbai City.
The Islanders saw out the final minutes of the game resolutely as the final whistle came to the jubilation of Des Buckingham and his side. Mumbai City FC have secured their place in the Final of the 2022 Durand Cup with a 1-0 win over Mohammedan SC thanks to a late decisive goal by Bipin. The Islanders will play either Hyderabad FC or Bengaluru FC in the Final on Sunday, September 18 at the VYBK.