East Bengal stuns Shield winners Mumbai City with a 1-0 win

East Bengal stunned the League Winners’ Shield-winning team Mumbai City

Though it is too little too late for them, East Bengal returned to winning ways in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season with a 1-0 win over Mumbai City at the Mumbai Football Arena. Naorem Mahesh Singh scored the decisive goal of the game.

Given that this match was only about formality for his side, Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham made wholesale changes to the team that lost 1-2 against Bengaluru. Hardik Bhatt, Halen Nongtdu, Rowllin Borges, and Ayush Chhikara were handed starts, with Sanjeev Stalin, Mehtab Singh, Apuia, and Jorge Pereyra Diaz making way for them respectively.

On the other hand, East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine made only one change to his starting XI after a 0-2 defeat against Chennaiyin. Having served his one-game suspension, Alex Lima returned to the team with Jordan O’Doherty being dropped to the bench.

The Islanders had the better start to the game and had their first chance in the 5th minute when Bipin Singh found Lallianzuala Chhangte unmarked with a pass. However, the latter aimed his shot straight at the East Bengal goalkeeper, Kamaljit Singh.

The visitors had their first chance in the 9th minute, as a ball from the deep found VP Suhair. The winger lobbed the ball for Cleiton Silva who did well to find his strike partner, Jake Jervis, but the Englishman could not keep his attempt on target.

Just a couple of minutes later, Ahmed Jahouh tried one of his renowned long rangers, but it did not pay off that time around. The Moroccan midfielder had yet another attempt in the 21st minute, but the end result was the same.

The opening goal of the match almost arrived just after the half-hour mark. Alberto Noguera played a defense-splitting through ball for Chhangte, who did well to keep his shot on target but a brilliant save by Kamaljit helped East Bengal maintain parity in the game.

The last few minutes of the half saw the hosts creating a flurry of opportunities. At first, Bipin’s cross was dealt with by an alert Kamaljit. But only a few minutes later, Buckingham’s men had another opportunity as Chahangte’s pass found Noguera, who then crossed the ball into the box for Borges. However, the midfielder’s shot struck the crossbar and stayed out.

The second half started exactly how the first half ended, with Mumbai City creating one chance after another. Chhangte was heavily involved again as his pass found Noguera in a dangerous position, but the Spaniard could not trouble Kamaljit with his attempt.

Naorem Mahesh Singh had a fantastic game for East Bengal

Naorem Mahesh Singh had a fantastic game for East Bengal

The missed chances ultimately came back to haunt the Islanders, as East Bengal broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute of the match. After receiving a pass from Sarthak Golui, Cleiton played a pass for Suhair inside the box, but the latter did well to do a dummy and leave it for Mahesh, whose powerful shot found the back of the net.

The hosts threw the kitchen sink at the Torchbearers after going down and almost scored the equalizer in the 64th minute. Borges found Nongtfu from a corner and the young defender tried an acrobatic shot, which was saved by Kamaljit.

Against the run of play, East Bengal almost scored the insurance goal in the 68th minute. Jerry Lalrinzuala found the scorer, Mahesh with a pass, and the winger went for a cross. However, he miscued his attempt and it ended up being an attempt at goal that was going into the net but was brilliantly saved by the Islanders’ custodian, Phurba Lachenpa.

The goalkeeper was needed once again in the 81st minute to prevent East Bengal’s second goal. It was Mahesh’s pass that found Suhair in a good position, but his attempt was blocked by Phurba.

The League Winners’ Shield-winning team almost opened their goal tally in the 86th minute when Borges launched yet another delightful cross into the box. Mourtada Fall jumped highest and got his head to it, but the Senegalese centre-back’s attempt missed the target by a whisker.

The defining moment came just a few seconds before the full-time whistle. Fall’s through ball found Noguera, who then waltzed his way past the East Bengal defenders and got his shot in, but Charalampos Kyriakou came up with a heroic block.

With this win, East Bengal climbed to the ninth position with 19 points from 19 games. They will end their campaign with a Kolkata Derby clash against ATK Mohun Bagan on Saturday, while Mumbai City will now turn their attention to the playoffs, having finished the group stage campaign at the top of the table, with 46 points from 20 games.