Apuia helps Mumbai City reclaim first place by defeating East Bengal 3-0

East Bengal could not match Mumbai City’s pace and intensity

Mumbai City extended their unbeaten streak in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season, as they defeated East Bengal 3-0 at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium. Apuia scored a brace for the Islanders, while the other goal was netted by Greg Stewart.

Following a 0-2 defeat against Hyderabad in their last match, East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine made one change to his starting XI. Having recovered from a facial injury, Charalampos Kyriakou was handed a start at Jordan O’Doherty’s expense.

On the other hand, despite dismantling Goa by a 4-1 margin in the last match, Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham made two changes to his starting XI. Defenders Rostyn Griffiths and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy made way for Mourtada Fall and Mandar Rao Dessai respectively.

As many would have expected, the Islanders had the better start and almost netted the opening in only the 4th minute. After receiving a pass from Lallianzuala Chhangte, Stewart launched a shot but it was directed straight at the Torchbearers’ custodian, Kamaljit Singh.

Buckingham’s boys dominated possession and the next big opportunity came in the 19th minute, once again for Stewart. Argentine striker Jorge Pereyra Diaz laid a Bipin Singh cross into the path of the former Rangers player, whose shot was saved by Kamaljit for the second time.

Apuia and Lallianzuala Chhangte ran riot against the East Bengal backline

Apuia and Lallianzuala Chhangte ran riot against the East Bengal backline

The opening goal eventually came in the 26th minute. Having missed two opportunities earlier, Stewart played the role of provider this time around as he delivered a great ball for Ralte, who did well to first make a good run and beat his marker, and then beat Kamaljit with his strike.

The lead could easily have been doubled just after the half-hour mark when Ahmed Jahouh launched a cross into the box, but Fall’s strike showed why he is a central defender and not a striker instead. In the 42nd minute, Diaz had a strike, and though he is a forward, his attempt was not on target either.

Constantine made three changes at the break to reinvigorate his team, but none of his tactics worked as Buckingham’s side scored the second goal only five minutes into the half. After receiving a pass from Jahouh in midfield, Stewart darted forward and launched a vicious shot. While Kamaljit got a hand to it, the power of the strike made the ball evade him and curl into the back of the net.

The lead could easily have been extended to three just six minutes later when Bipin played a defense-splitting ball for Diaz, but the former Platense man could not get any connection on the ball. However, it did not matter anyway as the third goal came in the 59th minute.

The goal showed what great teamwork is capable of producing, with many of the Islanders’ attackers being involved in a single attack. After receiving a pass from Chhangte, Bipin laid the ball towards Diaz. He could have easily had a shot at goal himself, but chose not to be selfish and instead passed it for Ralte, who then beat his marker with a dummy and then placed his shot past Kamaljit.

Against the run of play, the hosts had a rare chance in the 69th minute when Eliandro found himself completely unmarked inside the box, but his attempt was blocked by a diving Fall.

The last chance of the game once again fell to the visitors, and it was the best chance of the lot. After Jerry Lalrinzuala brought down a pacy Vikram Pratap Singh in the box, Mumbai City was handed a penalty and the team decided to give youngster Gurkirat Singh a chance to get his name on the scoresheet. However, it was not to be as the 19-year-old blasted his shot over the bar.

With this win, Mumbai City reclaimed first place, with 24 points from 10 matches. They will now take on Chennaiyin next Saturday while East Bengal, who remain eighth with 9 points, will face Bengaluru on 30th December after a two-week break.