Mumbai City FC notched a narrow 2-1 victory over Kerala Blasters FC in their first home fixture of the season at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Lalengmawia Ralte scored in either halves for the Islanders, with Kerala’s central midfielder Danish Farooq slipping in with a strike between those two goals.
Diaz found the back of the net in the added time of the first half as skipper Rahul Bheke capitalised on space on the right flank to send an accurate cross inside the box. The Argentine striker somehow managed to get his feet to the ball and slotted it past the Blasters’ goalkeeper Sachin Suresh to help the Islanders enter the break with a one-goal advantage.
Kerala nearly equalised courtesy of Dimitrios Diamantakos a few minutes into the second half, as they regrouped and began searching for their equaliser with greater energy. Farooq rushed ahead into the 18-yard box to meet a cross by Sandeep Singh, who was introduced as a substitute to help the Blasters stretch the game and attack more from the wider end of the pitch.
However, Mumbai realised that they were arguably getting outnumbered in the centre of the park. Apuia began donning a more advanced role and formed a lethal attacking triangle with Greg Stewart and Diaz.
As the international duo scraped past their markers, the ball hopped over Kerala’s backline. Apuia showed impressive awareness to get behind the defensive unit and nod the ball past Suresh to bag the winner for the Islanders. Kerala’s quest for a late goal didn’t materialise until the end, with their defender Miloš Drinčić and Mumbai’s midfielder Yoell van Nieff being sent off just before the full-time whistle.