Mumbai City FC secured an impressive second-placed finish in their AFC Champions League group after a 1-0 win over Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Air Force Club) or Iraq in their final group stage match at the King Fahd International stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Despite finishing as runners-up, the Islanders couldn’t make the cut to the next round as they were not among the top three second-placed teams in the western region groups.
However, Mumbai City FC picked up two victories to finish the AFC Champions League campaign with seven points which is a record for an Indian club in Asia’s premier club competition.
Diego Mauricio’s goal in the 31st minute proved to be the difference between the two teams as Mumbai City FC defended astutely against Air Force Club to end the campaign on a winning note.
Having beaten the Iraqi side in the reverse fixture, Mumbai City FC entered the match with a positive frame of mind. However, it was the Iraqi side that started the match on the front foot and Mumbai City FC goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa was called into action in the 6th minute as he produced a finger-tip save to prevent the Iraqi side from taking an early lead.
Mumbai City FC had their first opening of the match three minutes later when Lallianzuala Chhangte forced a save from Air Force Club goalkeeper Mohammed Mejbel after being fed with a through ball by Vikram Partap Singh.
Air Force Club continued to be in the ascendancy and missed a number of half chances as Lachenpa remained alert in the Islanders goal.
However, just after the half-hour mark, Air Force Club were hit by a sucker punch when Brad Inman’s shot at the end of a counter-attacking move was spilled by Mejbel, allowing Mauricio to tap home and give Mumbai City FC the lead.
The Islanders managed to frustrate the Iraqi side and take their lead into the interval.
Air Force Club began the second half with renewed vigour. Substitute Hammadi Ahmad who replaced Abdul Kadhim in the second half was denied by a superb save from Lachenpa who continued to impress in the Mumbai City FC goal.
Mumbai City FC produced an incredible rearguard action to stave off Air Force Club attacks with Mourtada Fall and Mehtab Singh producing goal-saving blocks after the hour mark.
In the dying minutes of the match, Lachenpa produced a fine stop low down to his right to cap off another spectacular display.
Mumbai City FC held on for their second win of the tournament and finished the tournament on a spectacular high having ended with second place and a record seven points on the board.