With the utmost display of composure and finesse, Mumbai City FC registered a convincing 3-1 victory over Jamshedpur FC in the Hero Club Playoffs at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala on Tuesday, April 4.
Goals from Ahmed Jahouh, Alberto Noguera, and Vikram Pratap Singh were enough for MCFC to edge past the Men of Steel, who scored a lone goal through center-back Eli Sabia.
With a spot in the premier continental competition up for grabs, Des Buckingham's men, expectedly, started the game on the front foot. However, the first real threat of the match came through a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas free-kick that was acrobatically tipped over by Phurba Lachenpa.
Mumbai continued to dominate the proceedings as Rahul Bheke floated a cross from the right flank in the 30th minute. Alberto Noguera had an opportunity to test the keeper with a header but managed to mistime his jump.
The MCFC wingers, especially Bipin Singh, kept on troubling the opposition down the flanks. The best opportunity of the first half came in the 43rd minute when Bipin received the ball from outside the box with his back to the goal. The 28-year-old struck the ball on the turn but TP Rehenesh got a hand to it. The JFC custodian could only parry the ball away onto the post.
Despite the late charge from the Islanders, the 2021-22 League Shield winners were still very much in the game going into the second half.
Goals galore as Mumbai City FC pick apart Jamshedpur FC in the second half
After the break, Mumbai City managed to start with a similar intensity from the end of the first 45. Jorge Pereyra Diaz was found in some space by Noguera right after the resumption and the Argentine immediately tested the opposition shot-stopper. Rehenesh was up to the task.
Minutes later, the action shifted to the other end as a cross from Laldinliana Renthlei was deflected by an MCFC defender towards his own goal. But Lachenpa went down quickly and prevented an own goal.
Finally, in the 52nd minute, the Islanders were presented with a glorious opportunity to pull ahead when Lallianzual Chhangte was brought down by Ricky Lallawmawma on the right side of the penalty area. Ahmed Jahouh stepped up to take the resulting penalty and converted with ease from the spot.
Through their elite attackers, Mumbai City were all over the Men of Steel, and in the 70th minute Noguera doubled their lead with a vicious volley from the edge of the box. Jamshedpur were made to pay for failing to clear their lines.
Ricky was once again on the wrong end of the outcome when he failed to nudge home a brilliant through ball from Jay. But Aidy Boothroyd's men showed they weren't just mere pushovers. Eli Sabia, in the 80th minute, headed home an inch-perfect corner from Emmanuel-Thomas to pull a goal back for Jamshedpur.
Inspired by the lone goal, the Red Miners pushed forward in numbers as the minutes ticked down.
But in the fourth minute of injury time, JFC were punished for their Hail-Mary approach as Mumbai City caught them on the break. Rostyn Griffiths found Greg Stewart in acres of space with a delightful long ball, and the Scotsman calmly laid it off to substitute Vikram Pratap Singh. The Indian winger made no mistake from inside the box as he picked out the top corner with ease.
The victory secures Mumbai City FC a berth in the 2023-23 AFC Champions League for the second consecutive season. Both teams will now turn their focus to the upcoming Hero Super Cup 2023.