Mumbai City FC failed to snap their winless run as they were held to a 1-1 draw by NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Tuesday.
Ahmed Jahouh helped the reigning champions take the lead from the spot in the 30th minute but a relentless NorthEast United kept piling on the pressure and finally got their reward through substitute Mohammed Irshad, who struck in the 79th minute to ensure both sides shared the spoils.
The result means Mumbai remained winless in their last six games, moving back to the top-four, but only just, with 18 points from 12 games, level on points with Chennaiyin FC who take on Bengaluru FC on Wednesday.
NorthEast United remained at 10th place in the table, having 10 points from 14 games. For Mumbai, things got worse as Amey Ranawade was shown a red card in stoppage time after he picked up his second yellow card.
NorthEast United were off to a positive start but Mumbai soon got their grip on the tie, Jahouh whipping in a delicious ball for Vikram Pratap Singh whose flick-on was off target. Mourtada Fall was denied by a sharp save from Subhasish Roy Chowdhury as Mumbai started calling the shots.
The momentum soon reflected in a goal, albeit from a spot-kick, after Vikram was tripped inside the box by Mashoor Shereef. NorthEast protested vehemently against the decision, but the referee pointed to the spot and Jahouh thumped the ball high and into the left corner of the goal leaving Roy Chowdhury with no chance to get a hand to it.
Stung by the goal, NEUFC upped the ante but it was Mumbai who looked the likelier of the two sides to double their lead. Just before halftime, Brad Inman missed a sitter after being set up by Cassio Gabriel.
In the second period, NorthEast United had an early chance to equalize, but Gurjinder Kumar headed wide. The best chance for NorthEast United fell to Suhair Vadakkepeedika whose chip caught Mohamad Nawaz off his line but the ball cannoned off the post.
Two minutes later, Marcelinho's effort thundered off the bar as Mumbai breathed a sigh of relief. Hernan Santana then tried his luck from range with a delightful free-kick but the keeper did well to keep his effort at bay. NorthEast United kept knocking on the door and finally got their reward from an unlikely source.
Minutes after coming on for Sehnaj Singh, defender Irshad found the back of the net with a striker's finish after the ball fell to him from a NorthEast United corner and he applied a neat finish towards the far corner.
Cassio Gabriel got a golden chance to help Mumbai back into the lead after Amey Ranawade swung in a sharp cross for him inside the box but the Brazilian forced a sharp save from Roy Chowdhury.