Mumbai City FC faced a brief challenge from FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday, but fittingly overcame it to sum up a remarkable season so far, sealing their second ISL League Shield with a 5-3 win. In the process, Mumbai City FC also broke FC Goa’s record of 51 goals in an ISL season with at least four games left in the bank.
FC Goa were determined not to make Mumbai’s title charge easy, trying to beat them with their own attacking method. They found success with this approach as early as the 5th minute. A long free kick found its way to Noah Sadaoui, who danced past three defenders and composed himself to put the home team ahead.
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But the league leaders weren’t quiet for long. In the 18th minute, they were gifted a free kick just outside the box in a central position. Greg Stewart stepped up and hit a powerful left-footed shot to Dheeraj Singh’s near post to beat his outstretched right hand.
Both teams continued to push forward and looked shaky in defence, and in a four-minute span before the break, the game exploded into life. In the 40th minute, Jorge Pereyra Diaz was found with a good low delivery from Lallianzuala Chhangte on the right and hooked the ball from the floor to put the Islanders in front.
Their joy was short-lived, as FC Goa caught them out with a long ball again. Sadaoui turned creator, finding Brandon Fernandes’ run with a lob over the defence to put him one-on-one with Phurba Lachenpa. Fernandes made no mistake with his first touch and the hosts were level again.
But Stewart was on hand again to put Mumbai City FC in front with his second free-kick of the game, this one a more gentle curling effort that bounced off the post into the goal.
In the second half, Mumbai City FC tightened up to nullify FC Goa, forcing the home side to take risks going forward, which helped Chhangte in particular to come into the game. In the 71st minute, the winger found space for a cross which was handled in the box by Anwar Ali. He stepped up to take it himself to get to double-figures in the season and put the game beyond FC Goa.
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By the 77th minute, the Islanders had both Chhangte and Stewart off the pitch, but the substitutes ran circles around FC Goa anyway. From a corner, Mourtada Fall headed the ball into Vikram Pratap Singh’s path in front of the goal, and he flicked it in to make it 5-2. Against the run of play, Brison Fernandes found the back of the net from Alvaro Vazquez’s pull back, but the show would stop with that eighth goal.
With first place sealed, Mumbai City FC will travel to Bengaluru FC on February 15. FC Goa remain in fifth place but within touching distance of Odisha FC and Bengaluru FC. Their next assignment is Chennaiyin FC at home on February 16.