Al-Shabab proves too hot to handle for Mumbai City as Saudi outfit emerges 3-0 winners

Mumbai City had a difficult start to their 2022 AFC Champions League campaign

Mumbai City started their 2022 AFC Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat against the Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab. Ever Banega scored a brace for the Saudi Professional League outfit, while the other goal was scored by Turki Al-Ammar.

The Islanders opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match featuring three foreigners in the starting XI – Mourtada Fall, Ahmed Jahouh and Cassinho. On the other hand, Al-Shabab lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Besides Banega, Brazilian duo Carlos and Paulinho comprised their three-man foreign contingent in the starting XI.

Al-Shabab were the obvious favourites for this match and they wasted absolutely no time in establishing their supremacy, as Marius Sumudica’s men got their first opportunity in only the second minute of the game. A Hattan Bahebri pass found Nawaf Al Abid inside the box, but his shot was saved by the Mumbai City custodian Phurba Lachenpa.

However, the 2021/22 Indian Super League champions had the opportunity of taking the lead against the run of play only three minutes later when Cassinho laid off a pass for Bipin Singh. The Indian winger’s effort was not poor, but it missed the target by a whisker. A couple of minutes later, Bipin played the part of a provider by playing a pass for Jahouh, whose shot was blocked by Sumudica’s backline. 

These two chances served as a wake-up call for the White Lions, who then launched one attack after another. Al Abid missed another opportunity in the 11th minute, while barely a minute later, Paulinho’s strike forced Phurba into making a save.

Former AFC Champions League-winner with Al Hilal, Al Abid caused the ISL outfit problems aplenty as he had another go at the goal in the 18th minute, but failed to keep his shot on target this time around as well. In the 26th minute, Paulinho had two chances to score in the span of a few seconds, first with his head and then with his feet, but Phurba was up to the task to deny him on both occasions. Defender Ahmed Sharahili too joined the party and went for glory a couple of minutes later, but the outcome was the same. 

However, the Saudi Arabian side did not have to wait long for the breakthrough, as they were given a penalty in the 34th minute when Phurba brought down an onrushing Carlos. The vastly experienced campaigner from Argentina, Banega made no mistake in scoring from the penalty spot. Al-Shabab could have doubled their lead in the first half itself as Carlos pulled the trigger in additional time, but his strike was agonizingly wide of the goal post.

The second half started exactly the way the first half did, with Sumudica’s team enjoying unquestioned dominance. Al Abid and Carlos tested Phurba inside the first eight minutes of the second half, but on both occasions, the young goalkeeper came up trumps.

Ever Banega netted a brace for Al-Shabab

Ever Banega netted a brace for Al-Shabab

The second goal eventually arrived in the 68th minute when a pass from Saudi Arabian midfielder Abdullah Al Joui found Banega inside the box with a pass, and the former Inter Milan star made no mistake in finding the bottom left corner.

Luck was certainly not on Carlos’ side in this game, as he had another chance of getting his name on the scoresheet in the 75th minute but for the umpteenth time in the game, his effort narrowly missed the goal. However, that did not prevent Al-Shabab from scoring their third, as only a couple of minutes later, Al-Amman found the back of the net with a right-footed strike.

Both teams had chances to score in the dying minutes of the game. Mumbai City got the first chance in the 89th minute when Apuia Ralte picked out Lallianzuala Chhangte with a pass, but the Mizo winger’s shot lacked conviction. A minute later, Al-Shabab defender Fawad Al Saqour had a crack at the goal but Phurba came to the rescue of Des Buckingham’s team once again.

The Islanders will now face another stern test against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya in their next outing on 11th April, while on the same day, Al-Shabab will be up against the defending champions of the UAE Pro League, Al-Jazira.