The Islanders' run in the 2023 Durand Cup came to an end after they lost 3-1 to Mohun Bagan Super Giants in the quarter-finals of Asia’s oldest football tournament.
Starting XI - Phurba Lachenpa, Rahul Bheke (c), Mehtab Singh, Yoëll van Nieff, Akash Mishra, Apuia, Alberto Noguera, Greg Stewart, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh and Jorge Pereyra Díaz.
Mumbai City FC started the game positively, and were retaining possession well. The Islanders were hoping to find an opportunity to exploit gaps in the Mohun Bagan Super Giant defence to find an early goal.
Mohun Bagan SG however, took the lead in the 9th minute against the run of play from a penalty that Jason Cummins put away. A defence splitting through ball by Ashique Kuruniyan found Jason Cummins towards the left wing as he made his way inside the box with the ball. Phurba Lachenpa rushed out and brought down Cummins inside the box. The Australian put away the spot kick with ease to hand the Mariners a 1-0 lead early on in the game.
The Islanders maintained possession of the ball well as they were looking to convert chances at the end of good spells of play. In the 16th minute, Yoëll van Nieff won the ball back in the middle of the park and played the ball out on the right wing to Chhangte. The mizo-flash put in a searching ball behind the Mariners' back line in the hopes of finding Bipin, but the ball missed his run by inches.
Mumbai City FC slowly got into their attacking groove and piled the pressure on the Mohun Bagan SG back-line. Their relentless pressure eventually saw the Islanders equalise in the 28th minute. A sublime one-two between Greg Stewart and Alberto Noguera at the edge of the Mariners’ box resulted in Noguera with ample space inside the left side of the box. The Spaniard put in an inviting grounded cross that Vishal Kaith failed to collect. The ball bounced in the air thanks to a deflection and was chested into an empty net by Jorge Pereyra Díaz to make it 1-1. This was Argentine's 5th goal of the 2023 Durand Cup.
The Mariners wrestled the lead back in the 30th minute. A corner from the right for Mohun Bagan flashed across the face of the goal and found its way to Hugo Boumous on the far side, who crossed the ball into dangerous territory inside the box. Manvir rose highest at the far post and nodded the ball in to make it 2-1 in favour of Mohun Bagan.
The game was slowly coming to life as both teams showed great attacking verve. In the 35th minute, the Islanders were inches away from equalising. A corner for Mumbai City FC landed at the feet of Mehtab Singh, who got a vicious strike away but the ball rippled the side netting as Mohun Bagan SG still led 2-1.
The first half came to an end soon after as the scores read 2-1 in favour of Mohun Bagan Super Giant. The Islanders were unlucky to go into the break a goal behind.
Des Buckingham looked to change the system for the second half as he brought on Vikram Partap Singh for Aakash Mishra, hoping to add more energy and impetus to attack. Mumbai City FC came out in the second half with blistering pace, as they kept pushing the Mariners deeper into their half.
Greg Stewart came close to drawing level with a curling effort in the 53rd minute after he was fed the ball on the right edge of the box from a throw-in. The Scotsman then unleashed a shot that missed the far post by a whisker.
Mumbai City FC was still searching for an equaliser and throwing men forward. However, despite the attacking intent showcased by the Islanders, Mohun Bagan SG extended their lead in the 63rd minute of the game. A corner from the left made its way to Manvir outside the box on the right wing. He played a smart ball to Ashique who dribbled past two defenders and put in a sumptuous ball towards the middle from the by-line. An unmarked Anwar Ali headed the ball past a stranded Lachenpa to make it 3-1 in favour of the Mariners.
Head Coach Des Buckingham made his second substitution of the game as he brought on Rostyn Griffiths for Alberto Noguera in the 67th minute of the game.
Despite dominating possession, the Islanders were struggling to break down a resolute Mohun Bagan defence. The game gradually also became a gruelling physical battle as both sets of players kept putting in robust challenges.
Phurba Lachenpa was forced off due to a slight injury in the 74th minute and was replaced by Mohammad Nawaz in the Islanders’ goal.
Going into the last 10 minutes of the game, Mumbai City was looking to find a way back into the game while Mohun Bagan SG looked comfortable with their lead. In the 83rd minute, Vikram Partap Singh looked to force the issue with a shot from a long distance which missed the target an inch.
Soon after in the 86th minute Gurkirat Singh came on for Apuia as Des Buckingham was hoping an extra attacker would help him find a way back into the game. The young attacker nearly had an instant impact as he took on two Mohun Bagan SG defenders on the left wing and set the ball up for Bipin to put in a cross. Bipin’s cross however was cleared by an opposition defender before Chhangte could get a touch on the ball.
The Mariners looked to run down the clock to secure the win in the dying embers of the game. The game came to an end soon after as the scores read 3-1 in favour of Mohun Bagan Super Giant.