A splendid goal from Diego Carlos just before the half-time was all it took for Mumbai City on as they returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory against NorthEast United at the Mumbai Football Arena on Friday.
The victory helped the Islanders climb back to fourth place, pipping close-competitors Odisha FC. Meanwhile, the struggles continued for NorthEast United, who saw their winless run extended to nine games.
Jorge Costa made just one change to his Mumbai City line-up as Modou Sougou returned to the starting eleven in place of Serge Kevyn.
Robert Jarni on the other hand, made four chances to his NorthEast United team with Federico Gallego and Jose Leudo slotting into the playing eleven while Kai Herrings missed out due to a niggle.
The opening minutes were scrappy with both teams failing to keep hold of the ball. NorthEast United had the first chance of the game as early as the seventh minute after winning a free-kick when defender Reagan Singh was fouled by Diego Carlos. New singing, Simon Lundevall, making his second start, floated a delicious cross from the set-piece only for Lalengmawia to tip his header over the bar.
A similar opportunity fell for Sougou six minutes later when he blazed Mohamed Larbi’s cross over the post at the other end.
The visitors could have taken the lead during the 20th minute when Mato Grgic made a mess of Reagan Singh’s cross. The ball fell at the near post where striker Andrew Koegh failed to time his run to perfection, squandering a golden chance.
Sougou once again had another opportunity seven minutes later, this one much better, when Borges’ blocked shot fell to his feet but the Senegalese clattered the post from close range.
Like it has been the case on many occasions this season, a blunder from the referee meant that Mumbai City were lucky not to concede a penalty following a handball from debutant Hmingthanmawia who had misjudged a clearance.
The home side were happy to surrender possession after the opening 20 minutes following a spell of play where they pressed high and piled pressure on NorthEast’s defence. However, both sides lacked the cutting edge in the final third, failing to muster a single short on target.
Diego Carlos was the brightest attacking spark for Mumbai City, keeping NorthEast United on their toes whenever he had the ball.
He was denied only a couple of occasions but his perseverance paid off when Leudo’s clearance fell to the Brazilian in the box. Carlos pulled off a fancy move and baffled few markers before firing a shot from an acute angle at the far post to put Mumbai ahead just before the break.
Both sides made few introductions after the change of ends with Martin Chaves replacing Leudo. Mumbai on the other hand, made two substitutions, including a forced one as Subhashish Bose went off with a niggle.
Costa’s side could have doubled their tally in the 62nd minute when Sougou broke free on the right flank. The winger cut inside before firing a shot across the face off goal instead of squaring a pass to Amini Chermiti who was unmarked at the far post, which seemed like a better option.
Mumbai were more composed in defence as the game progressed but lacked the same intensity in attack as they had shown before the break. NorthEast brought on winger Nikhil Kadam late on in the game in search for an equaliser.
They kept probing, seeing more of the ball but any chances of making a come back were faded away when Reagan Singh was given his marching orders in the 88th minute after receiving a second yellow. This might have not been the most tidiest display for Mumbai but in the end, they managed to get three points on the board.