·24 December 2022
·24 December 2022
Mumbai City FC catapulted to the summit of the ISL 2022-23 league standings with an expertly-curated victory over an inspired Chennaiyin FC side at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday, December 24.
Although Chennai opened the scoring through Petar Sliskovic early on in the first half, the Islanders showed great resilience to fight back with goals from Lallianzuala Chhangte and Greg Stewart.
When the two sides met earlier in the season, Des Buckingham's side hammered the Marina Machans 2-6, with six different individuals getting on the scoresheet. But tonight was meant to be different, given Chennaiyin FC have had a lot more time to gel together now.
Right from the opening stages, the game evolved into strategic warfare as both teams seemingly did their homework.
The first decisive chance of the game presented itself when Mumbai City FC caught the visitors on the break and Lallianzuala Chhangte was put through down the right flank. The winger spotted Bipin Singh inside the opposition box and whipped in a looping cross, evading the defenders. However, the latter couldn't time his effort to perfection and it was a regulation save for Samik Mitra.
The Marina Machans had the hosts rattled with their intense high pressing and in an attempt to play out of the back, Mourtada Fall gave the possession away just outside the box. Julius Duker threaded the ball through for Petar Sliskovic, who calmly placed it past Phurba Lachenpa. Thomas Bradric's side stunned Mumbai City FC but needed to carry on with the same intensity.
However, the only undefeated side in the league weren't going to remain silent for long. Minutes later, Mumbai won a free-kick in the opposition's half. Ahmed Jahouh whipped in a delightful long ball from the dead-ball situation and in what seemed like a set-play routine, Fall laid it off for Chhangte, just outside the box. What followed next was a moment of magic from the explosive winger.
38' | GOOAALLLL!!
IT'S LZ TIME
A deep free kick taken by Jahouh is aimed at Fall's head. Fall diverts the ball into Chhangte's path and a rocket volley with his weaker foot has brought the scoreline level
The 25-year-old set himself up for a volley with the first touch before unleashing a belter of a volley to beat Chennaiyin FC custodian Samik Mitra. The technique and the connection defined the growth the young winger has had since his days in Chennai.
More drama awaited in the dying moments of the first half as Edwin Vanspaul was brought down inside the opposition box by a Mumbai City FC defender. Although the Chennaiyin FC defenders shouted for a penalty, the referee ruled against it, causing a visible protest from Brdaric at the half-time break.
Realizing the work Vincy Barretto was doing on Mandar Rao Desai, Des Buckingham brought on Vignesh Dakshinamurthy to replace the full-back. Meanwhile, Chennai stuck to their guns after the break.
Mumbai City were, however, unfazed by the pressure from their opponents. They continued to build out from the back and retain possession.
In the 57th minute, the hosts were ultimately rewarded for their superiority in possession and tenacity. After a wonderful build-up play, Bipin Singh cut the ball back into the box from the left flank.
In a moment of genius, Jorge Pereyra Diaz played a no-look flick to set up Greg Stewart, who slammed the ball home from the middle of the box. The Islanders took the lead and deservedly so.
However, Chennaiyin FC didn't give up. Barretto, who was the liveliest player for the Marina Machans, caught the opposition on the break and dragged the ball back towards the edge of the box for Anirudh Thapa. But the substitute lacked the composure to bury the effort.
The visitors continued their tenacious approach but Buckingham's side played down the clock expertly. Dominating possession and controlling the proceedings until the referee blew the final whistle.
The win extends Mumbai City FC's unbeaten streak to 11 matches and their consecutive winning run to six games. With 27 points, the Islanders are back at the top of the points table, two points ahead of second-placed Hyderabad FC.
Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, have 14 points from 11 games now. The Tamil Nadu-based side will need to return to winning ways soon if they're to keep their knockout hopes alive.
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