ISL Media Team
NEW DELHI: A gutsy Mumbai City FC went down fighting against UAE’s Al Jazira FC in the AFC Champions League group stage match as they lost 1-0 at the King Fahd International stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
After a dominant first half by Al Jazira, Mumbai City FC fought back strongly in the second half putting the UAE outfit under a lot of pressure but couldn’t find the all-important goal as they went down to an Ali Mabkhout penalty (40’).
The Islanders who made four changes to the team that won against Air Force Club in their last match had to resist early pressure from Al Jazira FC.
Mumbai City FC did a good job of containing their opponents in the early exchanges but needed some last-ditch defending from Mourtada Fall to keep their opponents at bay in the 17th minute when Al Jazira worked the ball well to set Bruno in space inside the Mumbai City FC box but Fall made a vital tackle when Bruno was about to pull the trigger.
A minute later Bruno once again threatened to break the deadlock when he beat the Mumbai City FC deadlock to get on the end of a long ball but his shot was well saved by Mohammed Nawaz.
There was more defending to do for Mumbai City FC as Al Jazira kept probing and causing problems down the right flank. A well-constructed move saw the ball fall to Mabkhut inside the penalty area but his shot was blocked in the 34th minute.
Four minutes later, Nawaz was called into action as he had to palm away a fierce low shot from Abdoulay Diaby who set up for a shot by a clever lay off from Mabkhout in the 38th minute.
A minute later, Al Jazira’s pressure paid off as they won a penalty after a handball by substitute Mehtab Singh. Mabkhout stepped up and converted the spot kick despite Nawaz guessing right.
Al Jazira carried a deserved lead into the interval.
Des Buckingham brought on Vinit Rai in place of Brad Inman in the second half. Mumbai City FC came out a much more aggressive side in the second half and enjoyed a spell of possession early on.
However, Al Jazira almost profited on the counter-aMumbai City FC then had their best chance of the game in the 59th minute when Al Jazira failed to clear a Lallianzuala Chhangte corner as the ball fell back to the Indian winger who put in a deep cross for Fall who could only find the side netting with his header.
Mumbai City FC kept on attacking Al Jazira FC in the second half as Buckingham threw on Vikram Partap Singh, Raynier Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai in the second half.
The Islanders were a constant threat from set pieces but couldn’t conjure up an opportunity of note until Rahul Bheke struck the crossbar with a side-footed shot in the 86th minute.
Mumbai City FC pushed for an equaliser till the end but Al Jazira held on to claim their first win of the tournament.
The result means all four teams are locked on three points in the group but Mumbai City FC who have the joint worst goal difference are at the bottom of the table.
The Islanders take on Al Jazira again in their next match in the group on Mondayttack in the 49th minute when Mabkhout set up Zayed Al Ameri at the far post with an inch-perfect low cross but his effort from close range was superbly saved by Nawaz.
(Photo Courtesy: Mumbai City FC)