Mumbai City FC lost the game against East Bengal 1-0 at home despite dominating the majority of the game and creating a tonne of chances. The Islanders did rest key players in the game while handing more than few debuts to the youngsters from the squad.
Des Buckingham made quite a few changes to his starting eleven that lost to Bengaluru FC away from home. January signings Hardik Bhatt and Halen Nongtdu made their debut in ISL as they took to the pitch against East Bengal in this game, they came in for Sanjeev Stalin and Mehtab Singh respectively. Rowlin Borges and the prodigious Ayush Chhikara also came into the starting eleven for the first time this season as they replaced Apuia Ralte and Jorge Pereyra Diaz respectively for the game against East Bengal. Phurba started in goal; youngster Halen Nongtdu partnered Mourtada Fall in central defence. They were flanked by Hardik Bhatt and Vignesh in the full-back positions. The ever-composed Rowlin Borges partnered the creative Ahmed Jahouh and the dynamic Alberto Noguera. The Islanders had the electric duo of Lallianzuala Chhangte on the right and Bipin Singh on the left wing in attack.Ayush Chhikara was leading the line for the Islanders against East Bengal.
Mumbai City FC started the game in their usual aggressive fashion as they were pressing East Bengal relentlessly and not allowing East Bengal too much time on the ball. The Islanders got into their passing rhythm quickly as East Bengal were happy to sit in their defensive shape.
The first chance of the game came in the 6th minute and it was created by Mumbai City FC. Ahmed Jahouh played a clever ball into Noguera in midfield. The Spaniard then carried the ball forward unchallenged and he slipped an intelligent through pass to Bipin Singh on the left wing. The record scorer for the Islanders then broke into the box and put in an inviting ball into the centre of the box for an on-rushing Ayush Chikara who just missed the ball as it went past him.
Mumbai City FC were dominating possession with ease, Halen Nongtdu especially was conducting himself superbly as he looked composed on the ball even in tight spaces. Ayush Chhikara was also filling in for the industrious Jorge Pereyra Diaz superbly as he was holding the ball up well and was bringing in the other Islanders’ attackers into the game expertly.
The next chance of the game came in the 20th minute of the game for Mumbai City FC. Ahmed Jahouh curled in a delicious ball from the right side from a free-kick. Ayush Chhikara made a late run to guide the ball into the net but the ball was cleared by an East Bengal before it could reach the young attacker.
The Islanders created the next chance of the game in the 31st minute. Jahouh played an accurate diagonal ball to an unmarked Chhangte on the right wing. The diminutive forward then beat an East Bengal defender to break into the box from the right side. Chhangte then unleashed a fierce shot while holding off an East Bengal defender but Kamaljit acrobatically made a save to make sure the scores still read 0-0.
The final chance of the first half came the way of the Islanders in the added time at the end of the first period. Mumbai City FC fluidly strung passes together in the opposition half,which at the feet of Rowlin right outside the box towards the centre. He unleashed a venomous shot that struck the post and went out. The scores still read 0-0 as the referee blew for half time soon after.
Mumbai City FC had dominated the proceedings in the first half as East Bengal looked second best for the majority of the first period despite the scores being level at 0-0.
The Islanders started the second half in the same way they ended the first half, on the front foot. They created the first chance of the half in the 47th minute of the game. Alberto Noguera and Chhangte combined superbly on the right flank to make space for themselves. They both broke into the box side by side. Chhangte then laid it off smartly to Nogeura who was more central, but the Spaniard’s shot was wayward as Kamaljit was not called into action.
Buckingham then made the first substitution of the game in the 48th minute of the game as he brought off Ayush Chhikara for Gurkirat Singh in the hopes of getting the opening goal of the game.
In the 52nd minute of the game however East Bengal went into the lead against the run of play. East Bengal broke on the left wing on a counter attack as Suhair Vadakkepeedika carried the ball forward into space. He played the ball accurately to Naorem Singh who thrashed the ball into the net from a central position inside the box to make it 1-0 in favour of East Bengal.
As soon as the game resumed the Islanders’ press had got even more aggressive as they were now chasing the game. The next clear chance of the game in the 64th minute for the Islanders as Jahouh delivered a superb corner from the right wing. Youngster Halen Nongtdu connected with the ball superbly as he acrobatically got his shot away at the first time of asking but it was right at Kamaljit who palmed the ball away.
The game trudged on as Mumbai City FC were keeping the ball well but East Bengal were somehow managing to keep them from scoring. In the 73rd minute Buckingham made his second change of the game as he brought off Bipin Singh and replaced him with Mohammed Asif.
The next chance of the game broke the way of the Islanders in the 80th minute of the game.Rowlin played a superb through ball to Gurkirat Singh on the left wing in space. The Islanders’ number 9 then made a dazzling run from the left-wing as he carried the ball into the East Bengal box while going past a couple of defenders. He however failed to make room for himself to get the shot away as Kamaljit rushed out to steal the ball off his toes.
In the 83rd minute Coach Buckingham made another substitution as Gyamar Nikum came on for his ISL debut in place of Vignesh.
Constantine made his first change of the game in the 88th minute as he brought off Suhair, the goalscorer for Sumeet Passi in attack. Buckingham responded with two changes of his own a minute later as he brought off Rowlin and Hardik for Rohlupuia and Gursimrat Gill respectively.
Before the game ended Constantine made a double substitution in added time at the end of the second half to make sure his team did not concede a late equaliser. He brought off Cleiton SIlva and Jerry for Haokip and Pritam Singh respectively.
Soon after the referee blew the full-time whistle as the game ended 1-0 in favour of East Bengal, as Mumbai City FC lost their first home game of the season despite playing some exceptional football in the game.
The Islanders will play the first leg of the semi-finals on the 7th of March 2023 at the Mumbai Football Arena with their opponent yet to be confirmed, the game will kick-off at 7.30pm IST.