Mumbai City qualifies for the 2023-24 ISL Final with a 2-0 win against Goa in the Semi-Final second leg

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Lallianzuala Chhangte scripted history on a humid evening in the heart of Mumbai

Mumbai City dominated Goa in a 2-0 win in the second leg of the second semi-final of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season with Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Lallianzuala Chhangte finding the back of the net on Monday at the Mumbai Football Arena.

Mumbai City head coach Petr Kratky made two changes to the starting XI that took the field in the 3-2 win in the first leg. Diaz replaced the benched Jakub Vojtus while Jayesh Rane came in for the injured Akash Mishra. Former Goa midfielder Alberto Noguera also returned to the substitutes bench.

On the other hand, Goa head coach Manolo Marquez made three changes to the team that walked out on the pitch in Margao as Carlos Martinez, Udanta Singh, and Rowllin Borges replaced Borja Herrera, Boris Singh, and the injured Mohammed Yasir in the starting XI.

Referee Harish Kundu took charge of the game and blew the whistle as the Islanders started on top by playing out from the back and winning a corner. The first big chance of the match came in the 10th minute and it came via the hero of the first leg, Chhangte who played a one-two pass with Diaz as the Argentine striker played him into the box but Dheeraj Singh gathered the ball.

A couple of minutes later,  Rahul Bheke was seen battling for the ball with Jay Gupta near Goa’s touchline as the Mumbai City skipper quashed all doubts on fitness concerns being raised in the buildup to the match.

Despite valiant efforts from Goa’s midfielders and forwards, the Gaurs were unable to break into the Islanders’ penalty box. Courtesy of a corner in the 17th minute, Phurba Lachenpa made his first save of the evening with a composed catch inside the six-yard area.

In the 19th minute, it seemed like Goa had finally got past the Mumbai City defenders but a poor cross from Udanta was easily cleared by a sky-blue jersey. Skipper Brandon Fernandes won a free-kick in the next minute which ended with another poor cross from the right wing with Seriton Fernandes the perpetrator this time around. On the counter-attack, Vikram Partap Singh delivered a delicious cross into the box but Odei Onaindia prevented Diaz from getting to the ball.

Tiri hit the post in the 22nd minute from a Yoell van Nieff free-kick as the away end breathed a sigh of relief before Lachenpa fumbled the ball in the next minute before eventually pouching it.

In the 34th minute, a throw-in found Pereyra Diaz who then slotted a through ball for Chhangte to run onto and curve the ball past Dheeraj successfully but the ball went on to hit the post and was cleared away by the Gaurs’ defenders to avert the danger.

A minute later, van Nieff went down on the pitch in an animated and embarrassing play-acting which forced referee Kundu to book both van Nieff and Noah Sadaoui who merely threw a chest-grazing elbow flick on the Dutch midfielder. Both players will miss the final against Mohun Bagan Super Giant irrespective of which side qualifies for the playoffs.

In the 40th minute, Brandon was fouled in a dangerous position but the Gaurs failed to make anything of the resultant free-kick. The visitors failed to break the deadlock before the half-time break as Krtaky’s men went into the interval with a slender advantage.

The first big moment of the second half came via an onrushing Mehtab Singh who ran half the field before launching a shot which was a whisker away from the post. A couple of minutes later, Mehtab got on the end of a van Nieff cross but the makeshift full-back once again failed to find the target.

In the 54th minute, Martinez and Brandon combined on the left flank to find Sadaoui unmarked inside the penalty area but Lachenpa was able to make the save and keep the ball out of his goal.

A minute later, Chhangte once again went past Jay Gupta who was struggling to contain the electric winger as he delivered a cross which whizzed through the six-yard box but Vikram failed to get on the end of the pass.

Before the clock could strike the hour-mark, Borges went down with an injury as Boris and Ayush Dev Chhetri replaced Seriton and the injured midfielder respectively.

Mumbai City set-up a final against MBSG with a 2-0 at home in the second leg of the semi-final

In the 64th minute, a free-kick routine ended with Tiri volleying the ball towards Dheeraj who parried it out for a corner. From the resulting corner, Tiri won another corner with his header which deflected from a black shirt before flying over the goal line. Another corner spelt danger as van Nieff found Mehtab whose header was thwarted away by the Goa defense.

Corner after a corner was the story of the middle phase of the second half as Apuia latched onto a clearance by the Gaurs as a rocketed shot from the midfielder deflected off Jay and went out for another corner from which the Islanders finally found the lead on the evening to stretch their aggregate lead to 2 goals.

Another van Nieff corner found Bheke and the former Bengaluru defender’s head once again broke Goan’s hearts as Dheeraj produced a save but Diaz was in the right position to bundle the ball over the line.

For the Islanders, Bipin Singh and Vojtus replaced Jayesh and van Nieff in an interesting attacking substitution despite having a 2-goal lead while Herrera replaced Carl McHugh in another throw of the dice by Marquez.

While blocking a Herrera free-kick, Thaer Krouma hurt his head and went down with an injury and the medical intervention allowed Marquez to finish his substitutions limit by taking off Noah and Brandon in favor of Paulo Retre and Brison Fernandes as the two fringe players were offered a chance to turn the fortunes around for their side.

A counter-attack in the 83rd minute allowed the Islanders to go further ahead as Vikram was the lucky recipient of a misplaced pass and the young starlet released Chhangte who went around Dheeraj to score his 10th goal of the season, becoming the only Indian player to score 10 goals in an ISL season twice.

Diaz was taken off immediately after the second goal of the evening and Noguera was introduced against his former side as Kratky wanted the Spaniard to have some minutes on the pitch ahead of the 2023-24 final against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

Eight minutes of injury time was added by the fourth referee but the Gaurs failed to add to their solitary shot on target on the evening as Brison sent the ball flying into Santa Cruz from a tight angle.

Mehtab went down in the fifth minute of injury time and Kratky would be concerned about the defender who had to be replaced by Valpuia after putting in a wonderful shit on the left side of the Islanders’ defense.

The Mariners would now be aiming to retain the ISL trophy while Mumbai City would be eager to bag their second ISL trophy and first since Des Buckingham’s side won the double of the ISL League Winners’ Shield and ISL trophy in the 2020-21 league season.

It would be an ominous sign for Antonio Lopez Habas to welcome Mumbai City to the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Kirirangan as the Islanders defeated Goa in the 2020-21 ISL semi-final as well while MBSG defeated a side from the eastern part of the nation in the semi-final before losing the final.