Mumbai City goes top of the table with a comeback win over Chennaiyin

Mumbai City extended their unbeaten streak in the competition

‘Unstoppable’ Mumbai City further extended their unbeaten streak in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season, as they secured a 2-1 win over Chennaiyin on Saturday. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Greg Stewart were on the scoresheet for the Islanders, whilst for the Marina Machans, Petar Sliskovic was the lone scorer.

Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham did not make any changes to his starting XI, and the reasons were very obvious. His team had just outplayed East Bengal to win 3-0, and hence, there was no need to opt for avoidable tweaks.

On the other hand, Chennaiyin head coach Thomas Brdaric made only one change to the team that drew 1-1 against Kerala Blasters in the Southern Derby. Goalkeeper Debjit Majumder was dropped to the bench as the young custodian from West Bengal, Samik Mitra got a rare chance.

Unlike what many would have expected, it was Chennaiyin that had the better start to the match. In the 5th minute, last match’s goal-scorer Vincy Barretto found himself in a dangerous position, but his half-cross-half-shot was not more than a wasted opportunity.

Seven minutes later, another Chennaiyin winger in Prasanth Karuthadathkuni found himself in space before launching a darting run. He then did well to get his shot in, but it was deflected by one of Buckingham’s defenders for a corner.

The Islanders had their first chance in the 17th minute when Moroccan midfielder Ahmed Jahouh put in a menacing cross. Mourtada Fall did well to meet it, but the Senegalese centre-back’s header did not trouble Samik under the Chennaiyin goal.

That chance helped Mumbai City free the shackles, as they then launched a flurry of attacks. Two minutes later, Chhangte played a good pass for Bipin Singh, but the winger’s shot was saved by Samik.

Just before the half-hour mark, Bipin launched another strike, this time Apuia being the provider. The result was similar as Samik made another save, but the rebound fell to Ralte whose shot struck Fallou Diagne. While Buckingham’s players appealed for a penalty, it fell on deaf ears.

Completely against the run of play, the Marina Machans were gifted a goal by the Islanders in the 34th minute. Fall was dispossessed in a dangerous region, following which Julius Duker played precise through ball for Sliskovic. As he has done so often this season, the Bosnian did well to find the back of the net by beating the keeper.

However, Brdaric’s players could hardly stop their celebrations as Mumbai City found the equalizer. Jahouh launched a ball into the box from a freekick, which once again found Fall. This time around, the defender made amends for his mistake by laying a header for Chhangte, who did brilliantly to beat Samik with an immaculate shot.

Interestingly, it was the Senegalese who had the first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute, but his acrobatic effort was nowhere near the target. However, the second goal nearly arrived four minutes later when Bipin pulled the trigger, only for his shot to miss the target by a whisker.

Greg Stewart had yet another fantastic outing for the Islanders

Greg Stewart had yet another fantastic outing for the Islanders

The endless pressure eventually paid off as the Islanders took the lead in the 57th minute. Bipin was at the heart of things again as it was his cross into the box which started the move. Argentine striker Jorge Pereyra Diaz then did well to find Stewart with a cute backheel, and the Scottish midfielder was never going to commit a mistake in adding to his goals tally.

Chennaiyin should have scored the equalizer in the 64th minute when Barretto played an inch-perfect pass for Anirudh Thapa, but the highly-rated midfielder missed a gilt-edged opportunity. Thapa, however, could have had an assist to his name in the 78th minute when his corner almost found Diagne in an unmarked position, but the Islanders’ goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa met the ball before anyone else could.

Having sustained the Chennaiyin pressure, Mumbai City could have scored their third goal in the 85th minute. Spanish midfielder Alberto Noguera played a delightful ball for Vikram Pratap Singh, but the Indian youngster could not show the desired composure and ended up dragging his shot wide. It turned out to be the last chance of the match.

With this win, Mumbai City has dethroned Hyderabad to climb to the top of the table, with 27 points to their name from 11 matches. They will now take on Odisha on Monday in the first match of the 2023 calendar year while Chennaiyin, who remains seventh with 14 points from 11 matches, will enjoy a two-week break before taking on Jamshedpur on 7th January.