ISL 2020-21 news: Mumbai City pips ATK Mohun Bagan to League Winner's Shield and Champions League spot

ISL 2021: Mumbai City FC pipped ATK Mohun Bagan to win the ISL League Winner's Shield and claim the AFC Champions League spot in the final league game of the season.

Mumbai City skipper Amrinder Singh lifts the ISL League Winner's Shield.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Sergio Lobera was on course to lead FC Goa to the League Winners Shield last season. But it wasn’t to be as the Gaurs, with three games left in the league stage, unceremoniously let go of the Spaniard. Lobera finally got his hands on the League Winners Shield on Sunday as Mumbai City FC (MCFC) scripted a 2-0 triumph over ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim.

AS IT HAPPENED

More than the Shield and the Rs. 50 Lakh cheque that accompanies it, the victory also earns MCFC a group stage berth in the coveted AFC Champions League - making it only the second Indian club to achieve the feat. Though both teams ended with 40 points, MCFC took the top honours as it had beaten ATKMB when the two sides had earlier clashed in the league stage.

The Islanders went ahead in the seventh minute off a thumping header from the ISL’s highest-scoring defender - Mourtada Fall. Ahmed Jahouh whipped in a perfectly flighted free-kick and Tiri, oblivious to Fall’s presence behind him, appeared to duck under the ball, allowing Fall to swoop in with a header. ATKMB was thrown into unfamiliar territory as it was only the sixth time this season that the side had conceded first, and the impact was evident.

Mourtada Fall celebrates his goal for Mumbai City FC against ATK Mohun Bagan in the 2020-21 ISL on Sunday.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

 

Antonio Habas’ side suffered another blow in the 19th minute when captain Sandesh Jhingan was taken off for what looked like an abdominal strain. MCFC was relentless in its approach as it controlled the tempo of the game and repeatedly carved openings in the opposition’s wobbly defence.

The Islanders doubled their lead in the 39th minute. Pritam Kotal, who took the captain’s armband from Jhingan, cheaply brought down Jahouh to give away a free-kick from a promising position. Hernan Santana struck it sublimely and was unfortunate to be denied by the crossbar but Bartholomew Ogbeche was the fastest to react as he pounced on the rebound to nod home the winner.

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ATKMB, which has scored 23 of its 28 goals this season in the second half, came out stronger in the second period. The likes of Roy Krishna, David Williams, and Manvir Singh had goal attempts but Amrinder Singh was adamant to secure a clean sheet. Prabir Das was the only one who managed to beat Amrinder with a sizzling strike from the edge of the box, but his shot ended up rattling the crossbar.

Mumbai City players celebrate Ogbeche's goal against ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

 

MCFC sat back to defend its two-goal lead and did so successfully to close out a remarkable victory. It was almost a feeling of deja vu as the last time ATKMB did not score in a game was against Mumbai City. And it was Ogbeche who struck the winner as well.

As the full-time whistle went off the players piled onto each other while Lobera broke into a rare smile. Skipper Amrinder went on to lift the League Winners Shield and the players danced under a confetti shower as their celebrations echoed through the empty stadium. Though these are unprecedented times, there was a sense of familiarity in the end - the night ended with another game of great football.