Mumbai City FC were unlucky to lose their second game in the Super Cup against NorthEast United as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat despite dominating the entire game. The Islanders also hit the crossbar twice and were better side throughout the 90 minutes.
Des Buckingham named an unchanged starting eleven from the victory against Churchill Brothers in their initial Group D match of the Super Cup. Apuia Ralte started despite picking up a knock in the previous game. Phurba started in goal; Mehtab Singh and Rahul Bheke lined up as the centre-back pairing for this game. They were flanked by Hardik Bhatt and Vignesh D. in the full-back positions to complete the defence. The Islanders midfield consisted of the prodigious Apuia Ralte, the ever-composed Rowllin Borges and the industrious Vinit Rai. Lallianzuala Chhangte started on the right-wing in attack with the Islanders record goal-scorer Bipin Singh playing on the left and Vikram Partap Singh leading the line to complete Mumbai City FC’s attack.
Mumbai City FC started the match on the front foot and were looking to score from the first whistle. The Highlanders on the other hand were sitting back in their own half to hold their defensive shape.
The first chance of the game broke the way of the Islanders in the 3rd minute of the game. A long diagonal ball was received by Chhangte on the right wing. He then cut inside while Vikram Partap Singh made a looping run ahead of him as he ran inside the box. The Islanders number 7 found Vikram on the right side of the box, he unleashed a shot towards the near post that was palmed away by Mirshad but the ball landed at the feet of Vinit. Vinit Rai tried to get his shot away but it was blocked by a Highlanders defender.
The Islanders created the next chance of the game in the 5th minute. Chhangte received the ball on the right wing again but this time closer to the opposition penalty box. He glided past a couple of Highlanders’ defenders and cut inside. He then unleashed a left footed curling shot from a central position right outside the box, beating the keeper but struck the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick.
After relinquishing some early opportunities NorthEast United sat further back in their half, and were looking to counter despite struggling to soak up the pressure the Islanders were putting them under. They were defending for their lives as Highlanders defenders made crucial last ditch challenges to quell chances.
Against the run of play, NorthEast United took the lead in the 30th minute of the game. A long hopeful ball was chased down by Emil on the right wing, who played in Joe Zohera who had made a run beyond Emil. He skipped past Vignesh with a good touch and headed to the byline to put in a cross. His attempt struck the arm of Mehtab Singh inside the box and a penalty was awarded in favour of NorthEast. Jordan Gil stepped up to take the spot-kick and slotted the ball towards the left of Phurba as the Highlanders took a 1-0 lead.
NorthEast United FC were defending in numbers from the restart but the goal seemed to have lifted the squad as they looked more composed going forward on the counter. The pace of Jitin and Emil on the Highlanders wing was troubling the Islanders full-back in the few chances they got to counter after the goal.
Mumbai City FC on the other hand were dominating possession with ease, but were finding it hard to break down the Highlanders deep block.
The Islanders created the last clear cut chance of the first half in added time in the 46th minute. Apuia won the ball in midfield and made his way forward. He then played in Vikram on the right side just outside the box. He put flashed the ball across the face of the goal that was slightly heavily hit for Chhangte who had made a smart run at the far post as he failed to get a touch on the ball.
Soon after the referee blew for half-time as the Islanders went into the break 1-0 down despite dominating possession and creating the bulk of the chances in the first period. NorthEast United looked dangerous on the counter but Phurba was relatively untroubled in the first half.
Des Buckingham made a half time change as he brought off Vignesh and replaced him with Mandar Rao Dessai at left back. NorthEast United also made a change during the break as they brought on Chhara for Jithin on the left wing.
The Islanders started the second half in similar fashion as they were aggressively looking to score the equaliser from the restart.
NorthEast United however extended their lead in the 49th minute. Alex Saji ran with the ball from a central position from a counter and let fly from distance when he was close to the box. Phurba at full stretch palmed the ball away but it landed at the feet of Jordan Gill, who calmly put the ball into the net to make it 2-0 in favour of the Highlanders.
Buckingham made his second change of the game in the 52nd minute of the game as brought off Vinit Rai and was replaced by Ayush Chhikara. The Islanders altered their shape in the hope of finding a way back in the game.
Mumbai City FC were constantly pushing for the equaliser but were struggling to find a way past a resolute NorthEast United defence.
Gurkirat Singh came on for Hardik Bhatt in the 64th minute as Buckingham looked to add extra attacking impetus in search for a way back into the game.
Ayush Chikara and Gurkirat were combining in sync instantly after coming on as they were proving a menace for the NorthEast United defence to deal with. Chhikara almost pulled one back in the 66th minute of the game. Apuia played ball into Ayush’s feet who showed exceptionals strength to hold off the Highlanders’ defender and turned to make space for himself right outside the box. He unleashed a venomous curled shot that seemed like it was destined for the right top corner but the ball struck the post and came back into play. The scores still read 2-0 in favour of NorthEast.
After the introduction of Ayush Chhikara and Gurkirat the Islanders looked much more potent in attack and were creating a lot more chances in the second half. The Islanders were piling on the pressure on the Highlanders who were making sure they defend in numbers to keep them out.
They created the next clear cut chance of the in the 72nd minute, Apuia found himself on the right wing as the ball was played to him. He put in a great cross towards the centre that was met by the head of the young Ayush Chhikara, unfortunately his header was just off target.
Floyd Pinto brought off Emil Benny for Mashoor to add an extra player in defence in the 75th of the minute of the game.
Mumbai City FC created the next clear cut chance of the game from a set-piece in the 82nd minute. Rowllin Borges put in a delicious ball towards Rahul Bheke who looked to bury his header into the net but failed to get clean contact on the ball and the ball flew off target.
Finally in the 85th minute the Islanders relentless pressure paid dividend as they pulled a goal back. A ball was played into space on the right wing that was chased down by Vikram Partap. He got the ball under his spell and played in Rowllin Borges who was making a late run inside the box. The composed midfielder pushed the ball forward into space right to the edge of the box. The loose ball was struck first time Apuia Ralte as his fierce shot hit the underside of the crossbar and nestled into the net, the scores read 2-1 as the Islanders looked set for a combative last minutes of the game in search of an equaliser.
NorthEast United made an immediate substitute after the Islanders goal in the 86th minute as they brought off Gani and Beitia for Pragyan and Danmawia respectively.
Mumbai City FC kept pushing for an equaliser till the last whistle but were unable to find a second goal in the game to snatch a point in the dying embers of the game. Soon after the game ended as the scores read 2-1 in favour of the Highlanders. Mumbai CIty FC were very unlucky to lose on the night despite a stellar display by the young, all-Indian squad of the Islanders.
The Islanders will take on Chennaiyin FC in their next and the deciding Group D game of the Super Cup on April 19 at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala with the game set to kick-off at 8.30pm IST.