AFC Champions League playoff: Mumbai City overcome Jamshedpur, return to Asian elite

Mumbai City FC enjoyed another triumph in an already successful season after beating Jamshedpur FC 3-1 to progress to the group stage of the 2023-24 AFC Champions League.

Ahmed Jahouh, Alberto Noguera and Vikram Pratap Singh found the scoresheet for Mumbai City, while Jamshedpur's only goal came via Eli Sabia.

Mumbai were at full strength as Lalengmawia Ralte, who missed the national team's international friendlies due to an injury, was fit to start. Greg Stewart was on the bench as Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz led the attack. Meanwhile, Jamshedpur lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Harry Sawyer and Daniel Chima Chukwu up front.

Mumbai started the match in their trademark manner, dominating possession but couldn't create anything substantial in the opening 40 minutes. In fact, it was Jamshedpur who nearly broke the deadlock in the 12th minute. Chukwu's free-kick effort was on target and Mumbai goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa palmed the ball away.

Mumbai's first real chance came in the 42nd minute when Chhangte's strike from the edge of the box whizzed towards the bottom right corner, only for TP Rehenesh to deny him. The Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper pulled off a terrific one-handed save and gloved the ball onto the post.

Mumbai enjoyed 64 per cent possession in the first half, but out of their eight shots, only one was on target. Aidy Boothroyd's Jamshedpur were solid with their organisation, making it extremely tough for Mumbai to break their defence.

Mumbai went on the offensive after the break and almost netted the opener within seconds of the restart. Diaz received the ball inside the box from Bipin Singh and took a touch before shooting on the turn. Once again, Rehenesh was well-positioned to make the save from close range.

Minutes later, Phurba did the same for Mumbai when the ball deflected towards the goal after hitting defender Mehtab Singh. Mumbai's relentless pressure finally resulted in an opportunity when Jamshedpur's Ricky Lallawmawma stuck his leg out to trip Chhangte inside the box. Jahouh took the penalty and converted by going to the right-bottom corner of the net.

Mumbai had another golden chance, just a few minutes later, to double their lead. Chhangte, this ISL season's best player, took the first-time shot from inside the box after a pass from Bipin but Ricky came up with a brave block.

With half an hour to go, Mumbai head coach Des Buckingham sent in Stewart to replace Jorge Pereyra Diaz with an aim of sealing the victory. Stewart didn't get on the scoresheet but Noguera, who had been brilliant on the night, doubled Mumbai's lead with a thumping effort. The Jamshedpur defence failed to clear a cross floated into the box and ball fell kindly for Noguera, who fired a half-volley to make it 2-0.

The match took an interesting turn with 10 minutes to go when Jamshedpur cut the deficit to one goal. Sabia headed the ball inside the net from a corner.

Buckingham made more changes after Jamshedpur's goal as Mourtada Fall and Vikram Pratap Singh replaced Noguera and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, while Boothroyd sent in striker Ishan Pandita in the hope of finding the equaliser. Jamshedpur tried their best to find the second goal, but Mumbai sealed the victory in injury time. Stewart broke through during a counter-attack and passed the ball to Vikram, who made no mistake from the centre of the box to beat Rehenesh.

Under Buckingham, Mumbai had impressed in the 2021-22 season of the AFC Champions League, finishing second in their group.