Mumbai City FC came from behind to score two goals late in the second half as Greg Stewart and Jorge Pereyra Diaz netted one each to hand the Islanders a 2-1 victory against Punjab FC in their home ground in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Thursday.
Defending titles is arguably more difficult than winning them but Mumbai City FC is putting up a strong case for the same by repeatedly coming from behind and picking up crucial points. It beat Kerala Blasters FC at the same venue in a similar manner last month and repeated those heroics to extend Punjab’s search for its opening win of the season.
Punjab did most things right for most of the game, with its talismanic striker Luka Majcen testing Mohammed Nawaz with a headed effort in the 14th minute.
Majcen looked determined to catch the opportunity of defeating Des Buckingham and his men in their backyard, as he sprinted ahead with the ball and shot it accurately into the back of the net from outside of the 18-yard box in the 37th minute.
The Slovenian, who was the highest goal-scorer in the I-League last season, notched his second strike of the season.
The home side regrouped in the second half, though. Buckingham shook the lineup slightly with the introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jayesh Rane in place of Vikram Pratap Singh and Akash Mishra in the 46th minute and 63rd minute, respectively.
Mumbai kept knocking on the door repeatedly, with Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Lalengmawia Ralte coming close to bagging the equaliser. Apuia hit the post once, but it was former ISL Golden Ball winner Stewart who drew the scores level.
As the full-time whistle neared, Mumbai City FC at no point resorted to relying on a moment of individual brilliance. It kept executing its attacking efforts collectively, with Stewart slotting the ball past Punjab FC goalkeeper Ravi Kumar from distance after receiving an assist from Rane.
Mumbai spotted the opening and pounced upon that, as it moved ahead with precision and Chhangte and Diaz combined for the latter to finish the move off and bag his fifth goal of the campaign.
In fact, the 51 seconds between Mumbai City’s two goals is the second shortest duration between two goals by the same team in ISL history. The shortest is 38 seconds, with both goals being scored by Aridane Santana in the 56th minute for Hyderabad against East Bengal in the ISL 2019-20 campaign.
Punjab lost its shape post that effort, with Dimitris Chatziisaias being shown the second yellow card and subsequently being sent off in the 98th minute.
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