Jorge Pereyra Diaz’s brace helps Mumbai City sink NorthEast United

Jorge Pereyra Diaz celebrates after scoring the second goal for Mumbai City

Defending Shield winners Mumbai City began their ISL 2023-24 campaign on a high note as they beat NorthEast United 2-1 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday. Jorge Pereyra Diaz scored a brace in the first half canceling out Parthib Gogoi’s equalizer. 

Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham fielded his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mohammad Nawaz starting under the sticks. Mehtab Singh and Rostyn Griffiths formed the heart of the defense while Rahul Bheke and Akash Mishra flanked the defense. 

Yoell van Nieff and Apuia played as the two defensive midfielders with the trio of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Greg Stewart, and Bipin Singh donning the role of the attacking midfielders. Jorge Pereyra Diaz played as the lone striker. 

NorthEast United entered the match in a 4-4-2 formation under the helm of new coach Juan Pedro Benali. Mirshad Michu donned the gloves with the back four of Tondonba Singh, Yaser Ahmed, Asheer Akhtar, and Dinesh Singh forming a shield ahead of the goalkeeper. 

Captain Romain Philippoteaux and Mohammed Ali Bemammer played in the heart of the midfield with Manvir Singh and Phalguni Singh dictating terms from the wide areas of the field. Nestor Albiach and Parthib Gogoi were deployed as the two frontline strikers.  

The Highlanders had the first chance of the game in the 9th minute when Phalguni found himself with acres of space at the edge of the box and went for glory. However, Nawaz positioned himself perfectly to collect the ball. 

A minute later, Nestor controlled the goal-kick superbly with his first touch before unleashing Parthib on the left flank with a turn and a pass. However, the youngster’s shot from an acute angle posed no threat to the Mumbai City custodian. 

The Islanders got themselves in the lead in the 26th minute as Apuia passed the ball towards Bipin in the final third whose chipped cross caught the entire NorthEast United defense napping as Chhangte whizzed past them. With Michu closing him down, the Mizo winger toe-poked a pass towards an onrushing Diaz who made no mistake in slamming the ball into an empty net. 

The home side equalized six minutes later through Parthib as their unwavering efforts finally bore fruits. Gogoi turned past Bheke to find himself an inch of space and placed the ball into the far post as Nawaz was positioned slightly away. 

However, the joy lasted only eight minutes as Diaz completed his brace in the 38th minute. Chhangte made a crossfield pass towards Mehtab in the left flank whose header from inside the box turned into an assist. Diaz outstretched his boot past his marker Yaser as the away side regained the lead. 

A long pass directed towards Parthib almost restored parity for NorthEast but Nawaz came out of his line to thwart the danger with his fists. Van Nieff released a sumptuous through ball in the right flank bisecting the NorthEast defense as Diaz found himself through on goal. But, Michu closed down the angles at the right time to prevent the ball from bulging the net. 

Parthib Gogoi scored NorthEast United’s only goal in a losing effort

Nestor started the second half brightly for the Highlanders as his shot from outside the box amidst a host of Mumbai City defenders narrowly curled past the post. At the hour mark, Parthib turned past two defenders but his final shot from the box was tame and trickled past the post. 

Mumbai almost sealed the game in the 80th minute when Stewart curled his corner kick towards the far post. Mehtab made a dazzling run from the blindside to leave the keeper no chance of saving the goal and found the roof of the net. However, the linesman raised his flag as Chhangte was in an offside position and blocked the sight of Michu. 

Five minutes later, Chhangte crossed the ball across the face of the goal towards Diaz who took a first-time shot. But, Tondonba came up with a brave block as he slid in his body to save a goal. Substitute Vikram Pratap Singh kept his shot on target on the rebound but Michu pushed the ball away to safety. 

In the 89th minute, Phalguni laid a pass towards Nestor whose shot from outside the box was drilled low and hard. However, Nawaz timed his dive perfectly to keep the one-goal lead intact. 

Chhangte got a glorious opportunity to bury the game in the dying embers of the second half after a counter-attack saw him spurt to a one-on-one position with the keeper. The Indian international beat the keeper at the near post but his shot hit the woodwork before settling in the safe hands of Michu. 

The referee soon blew his final whistle as Buckingham’s men came out on top with a slim 2-1 win over NorthEast United. They continue their trip away from home when they face Odisha on Thursday while the Highlanders will be hoping to put behind this loss when they host Chennaiyin on Friday.