Joao Victor scores a brace but Hyderabad and Mumbai City share the spoils in a six-goal thriller
Defending champions Hyderbad and Mumbai City took a point each as both sides kicked their Indian Super League campaign off with an enthralling 3-3 draw at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
For the first game of the league season, Des Buckingham put out a positive starting eleven for Mumbai City against Hyderabad. Phurba started in goal; Mourtada Fall was partnered by Rostyn Griffiths in central defense. They were flanked by Rahul Bheke and Mandar Rao Dessai while Apuia Ralte and Vinit Rai played as the double pivot ahead of the defense.
Greg Stewart played in the number 10 position, flanked by Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte with Jorge Pereyra Diaz playing as the lone striker up top.
Meanwhile, the defending champions started with Laxmikant Kattimani in goal while Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh formed the base of their defense. They were flanked by Nikhil Poojary and Manoj Mohammed with the duo of Joao Victor and Hitesh Sharma deployed in the engine room.
Meanwhile, Australian Joel Chianese played as the creative central attacking midfielder flanked by Yasir Mohammad and Halicharan Narzary in the wings with Bartholomew Ogbeche playing as the focal point in Hyderabad’s attack.
The Islanders started the game with the same verve and energy they showed in the 2022 Durand Cup. In the opening minutes, they were controlling the ball well in midfield as Hyderabad was finding it tough to get a hold of the ball and break Mumbai City’s passing rhythm.
In the 5th minute of the game, Apuia’s tenacity led to him expertly intercepting the ball in the middle of the park. He moved the ball forward swiftly to Pereyra Diaz who played it through to Bipin Singh who shot just wide of the Hyderabad goal.
Mumbai City was finding it easy to control the ball in midfield from the start and looked dangerous every time they went forward. Stewart was constantly finding space right in front of the Nizams’ defensive line and was a menace for his marker. He was threading smart balls through to Bipin and Chhangte on the flanks who were looking to exploit space behind the Hyderabad defense.
In the 23rd minute, a clearance from Fall landed at the feet of Stewart who played a smart ball through to Bipin to initiate a swift counter-attack. Bipin carried the ball on the left flank as the Hyderabad defenders were backtracking. He squared the ball for Diaz from the left, Hyderabad’s Chinglensana slid to cut the ball out but ended up putting the ball in the back of his own goal to hand the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
The pace of the game slowed down a little from there on out as there were few chances coming the way of both teams. However, in the 35th minute, Fall headed the ball down from a corner to find Rai who improvised a cheeky header that went just over the Hyderabad goal.
Hyderabad was getting desperate for an equaliser as they started launching the ball towards the Mumbai City goal in the dying embers of the first half. At the end of the first half, Apuia gave away a soft penalty as he brought down Ogbeche in the Islander’s box. The spot-kick was calmly converted by Joao Victor to level the scores which read 1-1 going into the break.
Both teams started the second half dynamically as they looked to take the lead. Hyderabad was starting to get in its groove as they looked revitalised after the break.
Soon after the restart in the 51st minute, Hyderabad took the lead as they made it 2-1 thanks to Narzary. He was found by Yasir on the left side of the Mumbai City box who was smartly played in by Joel Chianese and the 28-year old found the back of the net.
Des Buckingham looked to shake things up as he made a triple substitution in the 56th minute that saw Fall, Diaz, and Rai come off, as they were replaced by Ahmed Jahouh, Mehtab Singh, and Alberto Noguera respectively. Hyderabad was forced to make a substitution of their own as Joel Chianese had to be substituted due to an injury, he was replaced by Borja in the number 10 position for the Nizams.
Buckingham’s substitutions had injected new life and ideas into the game as Jahouh and Noguera were getting on the ball. Their passing range and creativity were causing Hyderabad all kinds of trouble.
In the 67th minute, Jahouh found Stewart with an incisive pass and Stewart held off his marker to bury the ball into the far corner of the Hyderabad goal and draw the game level for the Islanders. The game became extremely open from there on out as both teams were chasing that winning strike and both teams looked dangerous going forward.
In the 76th minute, Hyderabad was awarded a corner that was headed across the face of the Islanders’ goal to an unmarked Joao Victor who headed the ball in with ease. The Nizams were in the lead again as the scores read 3-2 thanks to Victor’s second goal of the match.
Immediately after that goal, Sanjeev Stalin was brought on for Dessai in the 77th minute to add some fresh legs on the flanks. Soon after Hyderabad made a substitution of their own as they got Sahil Tavora on for Hitesh Sharma in their midfield in the 81st minute.
Noguera and Bipin were combining brilliantly since the Brazilian came on in the second half. In the 85th-minute fluid combination plays between Stewart, Noguera and Bipin led to an equaliser for the Islanders.
Bipin found Stewart at the edge of the Nizams’ box from the left wing. Stewart shot the ball towards goal but it was deflected into the path of an on-rushing Noguera who tucked the ball past Kattimani to make it 3-3.
Coach Buckingham made one final change as he brought off the prodigious Apuia for Rowllin Borges in the 87th minute as the Islanders were looking for the winner in the dying embers of the game.
The ISL heavyweights were throwing men forward as both clubs were looking for the decisive winner. The last chance of the game came in the second minute of added time at the end of the second half when Hyderabad was awarded a corner but the teasing delivery was powerfully punched away by Phurba.
A thrilling affair ended 3-3 as the champions of the last two editions of the ISL shared points. Hyderabad is back in action when they take on NorthEast United at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday.
The Islanders, on the other hand, will return to the Mumbai Football Arena for the first time in nearly three years next weekend as they take on Odisha on Saturday.