With several senior players absent due to national duty, Coach Petr Kratky implemented a series of changes, introducing young talents like Franklin Nazareth and Nathan Rodrigues into the starting line-up. Goalkeeper Phurba took on the captain's armband, leading a dynamic formation that saw youngsters Gurkirat lead the attack while returning from injury Alberto Noguera and El Khayati played behind him as playmaker.
The match kicked off with both sides displaying early intent. Franklin and Nathan, showcasing their youthful vigor, won a corner for Mumbai in the 3rd minute. El Khayati's delivery posed a threat, but Gokulam's keeper managed to punch the ball out. Nathan's attempt on the volley, however, sailed over the bar. Mumbai continued to press forward, with Jayesh Rane winning a ball at the edge of the box and setting up Gurkirat in the 11th minute, but the latter's shot missed the target.
Gokulam retaliated with an attack from the right in the 14th minute, as Nidhin's cross found Alex Sanchez, whose header was straight at the Mumbai keeper. However the ball popped off his hand and back in to the box but despite the brief scare, Mumbai's Van Nieff expertly kept Alex at bay before clearing the danger away.
The 24th minute brought a pivotal moment with Gokulam taking the lead. A long free-kick is headed goal-bound by Bouba but the ball rebounds off the bar and back into play, allowing an unmarked Alex Sanchez to head it into the net.
Undeterred, Mumbai intensified their assault, earning several corners.
In a contentious moment, the Islanders seemed to have found the equalizer from a Van Nieff corner. The latter delivered a precision cross, finding Valpuia's well-timed header at the back post as the ball hit the back of the net, sparking celebrations among the Mumbai players. However, the joy was short-lived as Gokulam vehemently protested; claiming a whistle from the referee had distracted their defense before the header. After a brief consultation with fourth official, the referee concurred with Gokulam's argument, ultimately disallowing the goal, much to the frustration of Islanders
The first half drew to a close with El Khayati releasing Gurkirat for a left-footed strike, brilliantly saved by Gokulam's keeper.
As the second half commenced, Gokulam Kerala started brightly with couple of attacking moves. Sreekutan attempted a curler from the left that soared over the bar in the 47th minute. Few minutes later, another Gokulam attack saw Sreekutan delivery at the far post well connected by Bouba however Skipper Phurba makes a brilliant double save to deny the goal.
Around the hour mark, El Khayati’s deflected pass finds Gurkirat Singh inside the box, who dummies once to make room. Gurkirat then goes for a low, driven shot and that forces Gokulam keeper Avilash to make a diving save and preserve his side’s lead.
Gokulam introduced substitute Emmanuel Justin, who swiftly surged down the right flank in an attempt to deliver a cutting cross. The Mumbai City defense scrambled to clear the danger, conceding a corner in the process. The ensuing set-piece was found Bouba at the far post, who won the header. However, the outcome was incredibly close, as Bouba's header rattled off the crossbar.
In the 76th minute, Mumbai found the breakthrough they sought. Stalin located El Khayati, who deftly slid the ball into the box for Ayush Chhikara to score, levelling the score line. Mumbai soon started to gain control of the game and push forward in search of the winner.
In the 82nd minute, Mumbai once again exploited vulnerabilities in the Gokulam defense. Lotjem orchestrated a slick pass to El Khayati, whose close-range shot was met with an impressive parry by Avilash. The rebound spilled out of the box, inviting Jayesh Rane to unleash a shot, only to be thwarted by Avilash once more. Reacting swiftly, Lotjem rushed to capitalize on the loose ball, but Avilash exhibited a brilliant reflex save, maintaining Gokulam's defensive resilience.
The decisive moment arrived in the 95th minute when Noguera was fouled inside the box, earning Mumbai a penalty. El Khayati calmly stepped up, slotting the ball into the bottom right corner, securing a late victory for Mumbai City FC.
With this win, Mumbai City FC have kicked off their Kalinga Super Cup campaign on a positive note, the Islanders next face Punjab FC on 16th January, next Tuesday.