Sunil Chhetri’s lone goal gives Bengaluru the win against Mumbai City in the first leg of semi-final
Bengaluru defeated Mumbai City 1-0 in the first leg of the semi-final at the Mumbai Football Arena and took a step closer to booking their place in the finals of the 2022-23 Indian Super League. Sunil Chhetri’s strike in the 78th minute proved to be the difference in a tight affair.
Bengaluru entered the field in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu donning the gloves. Sandesh Jhingan, Alan Costa, and Bruno Edgar formed the back three with Naorem Roshan Singh and Prabir Das providing the width in the pitch.
Rohit Kumar and Suresh Wangjam played as the two defensive midfielders with Javi Hernandez entrusted to create opportunities for the two strikers Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi Narayanan.
Mumbai City, on the other hand, continued playing in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Phurba Lachenpa guarded the sticks while the quartet of Mehtab Singh, Mourtada Fall, Rahul Bheke, and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy played as the four defenders.
Mumbai City got the first opportunity of the game in the 2nd minute when Rahul Bheke unleashed Greg Stewart on the right flank. The former Jamshedpur striker laid it off for Bipin Singh but Prabir Das blocked his attempt. Five minutes later, Vignesh mistimed his volley as the ball went inches wide of the post.
Stewart’s header off Vignesh’s cross in the 12th minute almost sneaked into the net but Gurpreet dived low to his left to avert the danger. The Islanders showed no signs of slowing down and nearly took the lead in the 20th minute. Jorge Pereyra Diaz towered above his marker to head Ahmed Jahouh’s corner kick but it sailed over the crossbar.
Bengaluru got their first opportunity of the game in the 24th minute when Javier Hernandez tried to chip in his shot off a loose ball. However, Fall rose to the occasion to head it away to safety.
Mumbai City once again regained their mojo in the 39th minute when Stewart nutmegged Sandesh Jhingan and laid it on a platter for Diaz. Gurpreet made himself big just in time to deny Diaz any look at the goal.
Bengaluru tried to sneak a goal late in the first half when Naorem Roshan Singh cut inside from the left flank. However, Phurba Lachenpa saved his shot at the near post.
Being on the back foot for the majority of the first half, Bengaluru started on a strong note after the change of sides. In the 51st minute, Roy Krishna tried to poke in a cross from Naorem Roshan Singh but Phurba Lachenpa made a comfortable save in the end.
Lallianzuala Chhangte made space for himself in the 54th minute to take a shot from outside the box. However, his shot flew into the stands rather than troubling the opposition goalkeeper.
Sunil Chhetri replaced Sivasakthi Narayanan at the hour mark and instantaneously created an impact. Spotting Javi’s run through the middle, he lobbed a pass towards the Spaniard who fired a shot after finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. However, Phurba made a diving save to deny the goal.
After a quiet phase of play, Chhetri put Bengaluru upfront in the 80th minute. The diminutive striker nodded home Naorem Roshan Singh’s corner kick at the near post with no one marking the Indian skipper.
Mumbai tried their best to claw their way back into the game. In the 84th minute, Jorge Pereyra Diaz crossed the ball in the path of substitute Ayush Chhikara. However, his final shot was tame and Gurpreet had no trouble saving it. Stewart’s cross nearly nestled into the back of the net five minutes later but Gurpreet made a fingertip save to keep Bengaluru’s lead intact.
With Mumbai City piling bodies forward, Chhetri orchestrated a brilliant counter-attack that found the away side in a promising situation. With Krishna to his right and another substitute Pablo Perez to his left, Chhetri chose the latter. However, Phurba Lachenpa dived low to prevent Perez’s shot from crossing the goal line.
Mumbai will be looking to forget this loss and bounce back with at least a one-goal win when the two sides cross swords with each other in the second leg at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.