Mumbai City FC were narrowly beaten by Bengaluru FC in the final of the 131st Durand Cup. The clash between the Indian Super League clubs was a tactical battle that saw the Islanders dominate possession. However, the counter attacking ability of Bengaluru FC proved pivotal in the game.
Mandar Rao Dessai replaced Amey Ranawade in the starting line-up, who suffered a knock in the semi-final against Mohammedan SC. Apuia went right into the first eleven after returning from a training stint at Lommel SK in Belgium. Except these two changes Coach Buckingham named an unchanged starting eleven for the final against Bengaluru FC.
The Islanders looked to start the game in typical fashion. In the opening minutes, they were able to control the ball well in midfield as Bengaluru FC were sitting back in their own half to absorb the pressure.
Bengaluru FC’s game plan for the final was clear from the first whistle. They were willing to let go off possession to utilise the pace of Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi to counter and get behind the likes of Fall and Griffiths.
In the 11th minute a long ball forward by the Blues fell awkwardly for Mourtada Fall who was being pressured by Sivasakthi. The Bengaluru FC number 39 successfully stole the ball off the Islanders captain and controlled it in the box. He lobbed it over Lachenpa to hand the Blues a 1-0 lead early in the game.
Mumbai City FC however were finding it easy to control the ball in midfield from the restart and looked hungry for an equaliser. In the 17th Minute Sanjeev Stalin found Chhangte with a clever pass but the 2022 Durand Cup top scorer’s shot was caught by Gurpreet in the Blues goal.
In the 30th minute a quick free just inside the Bengaluru FC half released Greg Stewart into space. The prolific Scotsman drove powerfully towards the goal and took a shot, which was deflected into the path of Apuia by the Blues goalkeeper. He marked his return from Belgium with a smart composed finish past Gurpreet to score the equaliser for the Islanders. The scores were level at 1-1.
Mumbai City FC’s number 7, Chhangte showed his will to contribute and help the team as in the 38th minute his goal line clearance to keep Roy Krishna’s deflected shot from a corner out kept the game at 1-1.
Both the Indian Super League clubs were going head-to-head, as they both looked threatening going forward.
In the 42nd minute Greg Stewart dropped deep to pick up the ball in the middle of the park. He played a precise through ball to Vinit Rai who found himself in space behind the Blues defence but his shot just went over the crossbar. The game stayed 1-1 as half time approached.
The first half came to a close as the game was evenly poised going into the break. Both teams had scored as the scores read 1-1 and put on a true display of their quality. The Islanders were dominating possession but were unable to find an edge in the final third in the first half.
The second 45 minutes started in similar fashion as both cubs looked to get on the ball and attack, the Islanders especially started the second half well. Jahouh was getting on the ball in space and was being able to spray passes around. Greg Stewart was causing havoc by dropping deep to get on the ball.
In the 47th minute the Islanders' seamless off-the-ball movement led to a chance for Bipin. Mandar squared it past Greg Stewart after making a penetrative run to find Apuia , who crossed it for Bipin. But the Islander’s number 29 headed just wide as the scores stayed level at 1-1.
Bengaluru FC looked threatening from set-pieces. In the 61st they utilised the height in their line-up well as Sunil Chettri found Alan Costa from a corner kick. The Brazilian headed at the back post to hand the Blues the lead as the scores read 2-1. Costa soon went off with a slight niggle in the 63rd minute as he was replaced by Parag.
Des Buckingham made a double substitution in the 65th minute to shake things up. He brought on Mehtab Singh and Alberto Noguera for Fall and Vinit respectively. Coach Buckingham looked to get all his attacking players on as he brought on Gurkirat for Apuia soon after in the 73rd minute.
Mumbai City FC looked revitalised after the substitutions. Noguera was getting on the ball and Gurkirat was making smart runs behind the Blues defence.
In the 77th minute Noguera slipped past Bengaluru FC players to release a powerful shot from the edge of the box. Unluckily for the Islanders, Nogeura’s shot crashed against the crossbar as Mumbai City FC were attacking at every chance they got.
Bengaluru FC looked to manage the game till the final whistle. They dropped deep and looked counter to extend the 2-1 score line, while the Islanders were looking to carve out a chance for an equaliser.
Phurba was doing his bit in the Mumbai City FC goal to keep the Islanders in the game. He made a crucial save in the 86th minute to deny Sunil Chettri a goal and made sure the scores stayed at 2-1.
In the 88th minute coach Buckingham made a final substitution to bring Vikram Partap on for Mandar. The final chance of the game broke the way the Islanders in the dying embers. In the 93rd minute Greg Stewart dribbled past a couple of Bengaluru FC players and fired a shot just wide of the goal. The match ended soon after as the scores read 2-1 in favour of Bengaluru FC who beat Mumbai City FC in a very entertaining 2022 Durand Cup final.
The Islanders’ focus now shifts to the Hero Indian Super League as they prepare to take on defending champions Hyderabad FC in the opening fixture on the 9th October at the G. M. C. Balayogi Athletic Stadium.