It was a perfect Friday night performance from The Islanders as a stunning strike from Diego Carlos got Mumbai City FC their second home win on the trot along with 3 crucial points. This victory pushed the Islanders back into fourth place with the league stage inching towards it's end.
Coach Jorge Costa was left with little options in the defence after Souvik's departure, Sarthak's season-ending injury and Pratik's suspension. The Boss deployed a makeshift backline with Valpuia and Mato playing as centre backs and Rafique and Subhasish starting at full back. Modou Sougou returned to the lineup after missing the match in Hyderabad in place of Serge Kevyn.
The tie started in a scrappy manner as both teams were guilty of losing possession cheaply but there was an early chance in the 5th minute of the match. Rowllin Borges managed to set free Amine Chermiti on the right flank but his pass was too heavy and the ball glided away for a goal kick.
The 7th minute saw Diego Carlos booked for a rough push from behind on Reagan Singh. The referee showed a card without any hesitation early in the game to put Carlos on a tight rope for the rest of the match.
As the match progressed, Diego Carlos' influence in the game also grew. With some terrorising runs down the flank, he was a menace for the opposition defence. The 14th minute saw Mohamed Larbi combine with Md. Rafique to put in a delightful cross for a rising Carlos but the Brazilian headed the ball over the crossbar. It was a sign of better things to come.
The 20th minute saw another Islander getting booked after Rafique playing at right back was penalised for a sliding tackle as he took down Lakra. Both sides gave away cheap fouls and Amine Chermiti was brought down just outside the box in the 23rd minute. Both Tunisians were interested in the dead ball but the left footed shot from Amine hit the NorthEast wall as another chance passed by.
It was the 28th minute when Mumbai City FC got their biggest chance after a cross from the electric Diego Carlos found Rowllin Borges whose shot deflected to Modou Sougou. The club record goal scorer Sougou turned and smashed it at goal, only for the post to deny us the opening goal. It remained 0-0 as the clock reached the 30 minute mark.
With dancing feet and rapid runs, Diego Carlos showed excellent skill on the ball but his cross was cleared away in the 38th minute. Gliding down the wings the whole night, Carlos again beat Reagan but the NorthEast defender put in a rash challenge to block his progress and the referee failed to book him.
Carlos' efforts were finally rewarded in the 44th minute after Larbi's cross was poorly cleared by Leudo straight to the Brazilian. Our No.18 took a touch and found himself in some space to glide the ball past the goalkeeper to open the scoring. This was his second goal of the season as the Mumbai Football Arena erupted. Both teams went into the break with The Islanders leading by a goal to nil.
The second half saw Jorge Costa make a change as Sourav Das came off for Bidyananda Singh and in the 47th minute Mumbai City FC were dealt with a severe blow as Subhasish Bose had to come off due to injury. Bipin Singh came on at the left back position as The Islanders had to play the second half with an alien-looking backline.
The visitors had a big chance towards the goal after a marauding Martin Chaves, who replaced Leudo at the restart, tried his luck from outside the box but ran into a wall after Mato Grgić blocked his shot for a corner.
There was another chance for Sougou in the 62nd minute after he found himself in space and ran through the wings and tried a shot aimed at the far corner but it went well wide of the goal. With Amine Chermiti running in at the far post, a more precise pass would have squared up the No. 9 for an easy goal to double the advantage. But in the end, a huge chance went begging.
The visitors had their moments after Simon Lundevall ran through only to hit a weak shot straight at a waiting Amrinder Singh. The visitors managed to put a few crosses inside but Amrinder Singh was always ready to pounce those wherever necessary. In the 79th minute, Modou Sougou was cautioned with a yellow card after a challenge from behind. The 83rd minute saw tempers flare after Sougou and Provat Lakra clashed over a foul. The referee quickly intervened to calm things down and play carried on.
Defender Reagan Singh was booked in the 87th minute as the visitors were chasing an equaliser and within 3 minutes the NorthEast fullback got himself into trouble after violent challenge on the ever-electric Diego Carlos. The referee knew what to do next. It was a second bookable offence and he was sent off without any protest from the culprit. With Sougou already on a yellow card, Jorge Costa took him off in the 90th minute to bring the local boy Raynier Fernandes on.
As the whistle blew at the end of 4 added minutes, there were celebrations all-round at the Mumbai Football Arena as a solid display from the Islanders who were playing with a makeshift defence got 3 points and also kept a second consecutive home clean sheet.
Diego Carlos was adjudged as the Hero of the match as he and his team will get ready for another home fixture against Jamshedpur FC on 6th February.