Mumbai City continued their unbeaten start to the 2023-24 ISL season after sharing the points on the road against Odisha FC in a 2-2 draw at the Kalinga Stadium. The Islanders came from behind twice courtesy of Rostyn Griffiths’ thumping header and Jorge Pereyra Díaz’s poacher’s finish late on.

With familiar faces on both sides, the game kicked off with a fiery intensity and the tone was set in the very first minute. Díaz charged down on Jahouh from behind and the Moroccan certainly felt that early on in the evening.

As both sides grew into the game, the Islanders were in push mode. At the quarter hour mark, Akash did well to win the ball aerially and nodded it onto to Bipin. The winger’s cross wass cleared high by Fall and Amrinder punched it out of play under pressure.

As he so often does, Greg Stewart produced a moment of magic in midfield – in the 40th minute, the Scot picked up the ball, danced past Jahouh and nutmegged Delgado but the Spaniard brought him down for a freekick. Greg stood over the ball and caught Amrinder on the wrong foot with a swiveling effort that went narrowly over the crossbar.

A piece of defensive brilliance followed on the other end shortly, just before half time. Jahouh started a move deep from the midfield, prodded on by Isak to Diego. The Brazilian went past Rostyn Griffiths but the Australian recovered magnificently to take the ball off Diego’s feet.

With injury time added on at the end of the first half, the deadlock was broken. A routine cross from Isak towards Jerry was chested by Akash back to Nawaz but the goalkeeper spilled the ball amidst a collision with the left-back. The loose ball was tapped in by Jerry from inches out to give Odisha the lead. Nawaz, whose head clattered with Akash’s trailing leg, took a moment before he got back onto his feet with a bandaged head. Meanwhile, Odisha entered the dressing room at the break a goal up.

The Islanders came out in the second half with renewed energy and it did not take long for it to show. In the 47th minute, Jorge Pereyra Díaz shielded the ball well in the box and rolled it into Vinit’s pass but his shot was blocked by Fall for a corner. Greg Stewart sent a swinging ball from his corner in towards the far post and Rostyn made a mazing run, losing his marker, and thumped in the header past Amrinder to make it 1-1.

The Islanders, with momentum on their side, kept the pressure up on Odisha. In the 58th minute, Nawaz’s long clearance was not dealt with by the Odisha defence. Greg brought the ball down and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area. Amrinder went low to his left, keeping Mumbai City’s onslaught at bay.

On the hour mark, Des Buckingham rolled the dice for the first time on the evening. Vikram Partap Singh came off the bench to replace Bipin Singh, whose 100th ISL appearance came to an early end.

Firmly on the front foot, Mumbai City’s attacking intentions were for everyone in the Kalinga to witness. In the 66th minute, the Islanders won themselves a freekick after Jahouh bundled Vinit over. Greg sent the freekick towards Tiri at the far post who headed it across but it was too high for both Rahul and Díaz to reach as a chance went begging for Des Buckingham’s side.

Seven minutes later, the Islanders were presented another golden opportunity to take the lead. Greg’s freekick caused chaos in the Odisha FC box as Rahul’s towering header was parried away by Amrinder. The melee made its way to Chhangte who fired his shot directly at Amrinder’s body for an easy save.

Two more changes were rung in by Des Buckingham in the 76th minute as Nasser El Khayati replaced Greg Stewart and Jayesh Rane came on for his Mumbai City debut in place of Vinit Rai.

A minute later, the Islanders were set back once again. A quick freekick taken by Jahouh put Krishna through on goal. Nawaz charged out and is adjudged to have brought down Krishna. After some deliberation with his assistant, the referee Pranjal Banerjee pointed to the spot. Krishna stepped up and sent Nawaz the wrong way to put Odisha ahead 2-1.

With four minutes of regulation time to go and the Islanders chasing an equalizer, Des Buckingham made his final change of the night. Tiri was replaced by Dutchman Yoëll van Nieff for the final minutes of the game.

The Islanders piled on relentless attacking pressure and in the 88th minute, it paid off. Jayesh Rane, in his maiden appearance for his hometown club, was dynamic in midfield. He expertly flicked a pass into Vikram’s path who was bearing in from the right. The young attacker expertly crossed the ball between the two Odisha centre backs for a darting JPD who headed it in like a true-blue poacher. 2-2.

With seven minutes of stoppage time added on, the Islanders threw the kitchen sink at it. In the final minute, Vikram powered through the right, cut in and took a shot from outside the box with his left. However, his shot lacked the punch and trickled wide off the post. The referee soon after sounded his whistle to call time on an exhilarating game of football.

The Islanders will now travel overseas for continental commitments as they make the trip to Namangan, Uzbekistan for a AFC Champions League outing against PFC Navbahor on October 3.