In one stand at the Balewadi Sports Complex’s football stadium came the sound of a drum. With every beat, the fans – barely a hundred – raised and lowered the flashlight from their cell phones. In another corner, the 149 fans of Mumbai City FC – the West Coast Brigade – stood in silence.

On the pitch, players from Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran celebrated their second goal against Mumbai City FC. In just over half-an-hour later, the Iranian club won their first ever match in the AFC Champions League – on debut – beating their hosts 2-0.

The match on Monday was the first time a Champions League group game – the top-tier men’s continental club competition in Asia – was taking place in India in front of fans. But there was no such glory to savour for the home team. And this despite Mumbai City looking like the better team in the opening exchanges.

On a rain-soaked evening in Pune, in front of 1529 spectators, the Mumbai-outfit started by playing a brand of football similar to what helped them remain unbeaten in a record 18 consecutive matches in the Indian Super League last year.

Lallianzuala Chhangte had the first big opportunity in the match. He broke free of his marker on the right flank in the ninth minute. He opened up his body to try a left-footed shot from a tight angle, but his attempt went just past the post.

Mumbai City were confident when on the ball, there was pace on the wings and flair in attack. What was missing on Monday night though, was the telling final pass.

At the other end of the pitch, in the 32nd minute, Nassaji gave a demonstration of what the final through ball should be like.

On a counter-attack, there was an element of luck as an attempted pass ricocheted off a Mumbai City player and fell kindly to Hossein Zamehran, the Nassaji captain. He took a few steps claim possession. Another few steps back with his back against goal, and he played a measured diagonal pass on the turn that dissected the small gap between Mumbai defenders Rostyn Griffiths and Rahul Bheke.

Speeding down the left was Mohammad Hosseini who took one touch to control, and the second to slot past the rushing goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa to put the visitors in the lead.

The goal was created by the quality of the pass – all against the run of play.

While Mumbai could not find a final pass to create the clear goalscoring opportunity, Nassaji’s defence became more and more rigid as the game progressed. No Mumbai player was allowed much time on the ball before an Iranian would make up the yards to apply pressure.

And while the defence started to quell every sight at goal, the Nassaji midfield started to launch more attacks. In the 55th minute, only the crossbar denied the visitors a second goal.

By the 62nd minute though, they had found the back of the net once again. Akash Mishra, the Mumbai City left-back was dispossessed in his own box by Farshid Esmaeili. The Iran midfielder cut-back a low cross to the onrushing Mohammadreza Azadi, who powered home a shot from just outside the six-yard box to double the lead.

Nassaji held firm, but there were a few golden opportunities that came Mumbai’s way. Greg Stewart, the flamboyant Scot drove in a low cross that Chhangte somehow failed to connect with in the 57th minute.

The duo were involved again in the 83rd minute. Stewart played an inch-perfect cross from the left-flank that floated over the Iran defenders, but Chhangte’s header went wide.

And in the dying minute of the match, in a delightful move that had a nervy and disappointing ending, Bipin Singh started the move by creating space on the left and floating in a cross. Stewart played a delicate dink to get the ball into the path of Vikram Pratap Singh, who played a first time shot that was wayward, and Jorge Pereyra Diaz was unable to recycle.

“Disappointed with the result, but not the performance,” said Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham after the match. “I thought we were good in the first half, we made chances but couldn’t convert. That’s the quality at this level.”

Buckingham explained how a lack of match sharpness made a difference – this was Mumbai City’s first match of the season and their first competitive game in weeks.

“Nassaji has already played four league games at home and now come into the Champions League,” he added.

The English coach stood in the middle of the pitch after the match, not moving an inch despite the pouring rain. He watched as his players sprinted from one end of the pitch to the other, working on a few fitness drills.

He claimed later that there was nothing unusual, rather that he was just watching over the team as they engaged in the post-match cool-down session.

On a rainy night in Pune, Buckingham and his Mumbai City team got the first taste of a long season ahead.