Resilient all-Indian Mumbai City FC prevail; defeat Chennayin FC 1-0 in Super Cup

Kerala, 19th April: Mumbai City FC emerged victorious in a thrilling game against Chennayin FC winning 1-0 in their final Group D clash of the 2023 Super Cup. On a sultry evening at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Mumbai City’s all-Indian squad showed an undeniable spirit, holding out against a barrage of offensive attempts. Ayush Chhikara scored his maiden goal in the Islanders’ colours and the winner on the night.

However, following NorthEast United’s 6-3 win over Churchill Brothers, tonight’s result was not enough to secure a place in the semifinals of the Super Cup as the Islanders bow out with a win and their head held high  

Mumbai City arrived into the fixture with three changes to the unit Phurba Lachenpa was ruled out due to a minor injury as Mohammad Nawaz took his place in goal. The Islanders’ went with a fresh defensive approach with Rahul Bheke alongside Mehtab Singh and Halen Nongtdu. Bipin Singh and Vikram Partap Singh flanked the midfield trio of Rowllin Borges, Apuia and Vinit Rai. Lallianzuala Chhangte started up top alongside the young Ayush Chhikara

Proceedings kicked off with early pressure from Chennayin FC, who did not allow Mumbai City FC to find their rhythm in the first 10 minutes. The Marina Machans tried to strangle the Islanders, crowding them every time they were in possession. However, it wasn’t long before the Islanders gave a glimpse of their lightning-quick offensive potency.

In the 9th minute, Rowllin Borges from deep in the Mumbai City box deployed an incisive long ball and immediately put Chhangte into play on the right. Chhangte burst forward with pace and played into a nearly empty box, only for it to be cleared by Vafa.

Nawaz was called into action in the 14th minute when Dueker played a long grounded ball to Rahim who dribbled his way into the box and fired a low driven shot that was kept out by a spectacular save by Nawaz, diving to his right.

Slowly but surely, the Islanders began to settle down and put together promising moves speared by the industrious Rowllin Borges, who was exemplary in the first quarter of the game. The forward line that was locked in during the initial minutes of the game, began to surge forward and get into critical positions in the final third of the pitch and particularly on the flanks.

In the 19th minute, an illegal back pass into Samik Mitra’s hands in the Chennaiyin goal, forced by the pressure from the Mumbai forward line, led to an indirect free kick on the edge of the six-yard box. Rowllin Borges let fly a driven strike that was deflected by a tightly packed Chennayin defence on the goal line.

Soon after in the 25th minute, the touch of Apuia from the centre of the park found Vikram with a lobbed through ball as he was surging forward on the right wing. The move looked like trouble for Chennayin FC before Narayan denied the move with a good piece of defending. The resulting corner was delivered in by Rowllin Borges who found Vikram on the near post with a flat cross, but Vikram could not find the desired connection

In the 33rd minute, Mumbai City broke the deadlock. The play began with Rahul Bheke just outside the Mumbai box as he played a quick ball to Chhangte, who cleverly played in Bipin Singh, behind the defenders. Bipin burst forward on the left flank with intent and as he penetrated the box, he deftly slid it across the six-yard box, on a platter for a young Ayush Chhikara who find the back of the net for his first ever goal for the club. The effort put Mumbai City FC ahead, 1-0.

Minutes before half time, Chhikara was fouled on the right wing, earning his team a free kick. Chhangte stepped up to take the set piece for his team as he floated a diagonal ball around the far post for Bheke to head it in, but the attempt was collected by goalkeeper Samik Mitra. Half time approached with the scoreline at 1-0 in favour of the Islanders.

As the second half commenced, initial proceedings mirrored the first half. Chennayin FC once again looked to be on their offence. Their sense of urgency was abundantly clear, but they were unable to sting a threatening attack against the compact defensive line of the Islanders.  

An exception occurred in the 52nd minute when Edwin delivered a precise cross from the edge of the penalty box, and Karikari, who had evaded the Mumbai defence, rose to powerfully head the ball towards the goal, but Nawaz was ready to make yet another critical save.

Mumbai City FC displayed tremendous resolve as they endured a great deal of pressure from the Chennayin forward line and refused to crumble defensively. While in possession, the Islanders did not slow down their ball movement and continued to hunt for a second goal.

Mehtab Singh, who had a tremendous first half, continued his rich vein of form in the second half. In the 60th minute, Mehtab made a heroic block, putting his body on the line to deflect a venomous strike in the box from Vafa.

Mumbai City FC made their first substitution in the 60th minute, replacing goal scorer Ayush Chikkara with Gurkirat Singh to replenish the firepower in front of goal on a blistering hot evening.

Apuia was the architect of yet another chance in the 62nd minute. He played forward a lovely, weighted ball to Chhangte on the left flank with pinpoint precision. Chhangte glided into the box, flummoxing the Chennayin defence with his footwork, after a series of stepovers he gave it back to Apuia who instantly teed up Vinit on the edge of the box. However, Vinit’s attempt was wayward.

65 minutes into the game, Bipin was on the prowl again. In a cunning display of game awareness, he spotted Samik out of position and let one fly, but the Chennayin keeper managed to pull off the save nonetheless.

Mumbai City FC continued their impressive defensive resilience, leaving no stone unturned in their endeavour to maintain their clean sheet. Every time Chennayin found a promising position, they were met by a tenacious blue shirt at the end of their ball.

In the 73rd minute, the experienced Rabhul Bheke made another imperative block. Duker tried to square it into the box, but was denied by the Mumbai skipper. In the 79th minute, Mehtab came to the rescue yet again, after a promising move down the right flank, Karirkari fired for Chenayyin in the box, but it was blocked by Mehtab yet again, to continue his stellar game.

Hardik Bhatt came on to replace Vikram Partap Singh in the 80th minute, as the Marina Machaans were consistently trying to penetrate the Mumbai defence through the flanks. Similarly Vignesh replaced Chhangte and took his place on the left flank.

The end of the second half saw the fourth official indicate seven minutes of stoppage time, but the Mumbai unit held on to their clean sheet, to take the full three points from the encounter. Unfortunately, the result did not suffice to secure a place in the semi-finals for the Islanders.

Mumbai City’s 2022-23 season comes to an end. A historic ISL campaign, where the Islanders broke nearly every possible record including remaining unbeaten for 18 games on their way to winning the ISL League Winners’ Shield, will forever be remembered. Des Buckingham’s side followed up their ISL heroics by beating Jamshedpur FC and sealing their spot in the 2023-24 AFC Champions League Group Stage – a second consecutive appearance in Asia’s premier club competition. The Islanders capped the season off by taking an all-Indian squad to the Super Cup and displaying solid performances, furthering their commitment to the development of Indian football.

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