Mumbai City FC returned to action as they played out a goalless draw on Monday against Al Jazira FC, at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium. It was a spirited display, with both sides coming close to scoring but none finding the net. With the result, Mumbai City have also scripted history by having the highest ever point tally by an Indian side in the AFC Champions League (4 points).
The line-up saw four changes since their last outing. Phurba Lachenpa, Mehtab Singh, Mandar Rao Dessai and Vinit Rai started in place of Mohamed Nawaz, Amey Ranawade, Vignesh D and Brad Inman.
As opposed to the previous fixture, the first shots of the game came much earlier. Al Jazira got theirs through an Ali Mabkhout strike from the edge of the box, which Phurba saved. Meanwhile, the Islanders got their shot from an Apuia header following an Ahmed Jahouh corner in the 9th minute.
Diego Mauricio and Vinit Rai also received bookings early on due to poor tackles. As a consequence, both players will be suspended for the next fixture.
The first half was a tight affair between either team, with both showing defensive solidity. It wasn’t until the half-hour mark till we saw a clear chance.
Diaby linked up in midfield and worked it to Mabkhout on the right. He crossed the ball towards the far post, and Bruno met it well. The ball seemed to be on its way in, until Phurba got down in time and pulled off a fine stop.
Another opportunity came through for the Emirati side in the 43rd minute, when a lapse in build-up from Vinit Rai led to the ball being collected by Ali Mabkhout. The forward was deep in our third, and had no pressure on him. He squared the ball to Bruno, who was closed down by Mehtab quickly. Bruno tried to the angle the ball past Mehtab, but his shot swerved wide of the post.
Mumbai also had their chance in the 45th minute, via an Ahmed Jahouh long ball. The #10 played it towards Mauricio, who did well to control it. The Brazilian peeled away from his man and struck the ball, but the ‘keeper came out in time to stop it.
Al Jazira came close to scoring once again in the dying minutes of the first half. Serero played it long to Bruno and released him on the right. The striker had the space to cross, and played it to Diaby who was unmarked into the box. It was an easy tap-in, however Phurba did exceptionally well to stretch out his arm and deny the Spiders any joy.
The second half started strongly in the Islanders favor, as they displayed greater attacking intent from the get-go. The first sign came in the 50th minute through a set-piece. Ahmed Jahouh sent a long, looping ball to Fall inside the box. The Captain headed it across the six yard box, to set up Rahul Bheke. However, the linesman held up his offside flag.
Six minutes later, the Islanders came close to scoring again. Ahmed Jahouh’s corner came in, and was cleared. Vinit collected it deep in their half and sent a sumptuous long ball back into the box. Chhangte latched on with a header but it was just too far for Mauricio to tap in and too close to the ‘keeper to be a goal.
The first changes of the night came at the hour mark. Vikram Partap and Brad Inman were brought on for Bipin Singh and Vinit Rai.
Vikram made an instant impact after coming on, due to his efforts in the 68th minute. The ball was progressed by Apuia and Vikram, finding Inman in the box. The Aussie slipped it wide to Bheke, who put a low cross in. Vikram controlled it and took the shot but his attempt was blocked.
Al Jazira responded in the following couple of minutes with their own attempt at goal. Diaby played it to Serero, who chipped the ball over the top of the defense. Bruno ran in and attempted a volley around his man but it went wide of the goal.
Mumbai City FC came close to scoring for the final time in the 86th minute. Fall distributed it wide to Chhangte, who played it in to Inman. Inman drifted in and made his way to the centre. He wrong-footed his man and sent a lovely through ball to Mauricio behind the defense. The #33 got to the pass, but he couldn’t beat the keeper in time to score.
The match also saw Raynier Fernandes feature after coming on for Lallianzuala Chhangte.
After a solid display, the Islanders are now 3rd on the points table with 4 points. Their next fixture comes against Al Shabab on the 23rd of April, 1:45 AM IST. The match will be played at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium.