Mumbai City FC suffered their fourth defeat in the AFC Champions League group stage and were eliminated after losing 0-2 to Al Hilal, the goals coming from Michael Delgado and Aleksandar Mitrovic at DY Patil Stadium here on Monday.
Mumbai began the match with intensity and created a couple of chances. Lallianzuala Chhangte cut in from the right at speed and fed the ball to Greg Stewart, who took a shot but was denied by the keeper on the near post.
Three minutes later, Jorge Pereyra Diaz was alert to a loose ball and won a header to get clear on goal, but Kalidou Koulibaly did well to track back and intercept the Argentine striker.
From there on, though, the visitors began to take control with Portugal’s Ruben Neves and Serbia’s Mitrovic dictating play. Al Hilal finished with 75 per cent possession in the first half as their opponents were put under relentless pressure.
The hero for Mumbai in the first 45 minutes was goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa. The 25-year-old was suspended for the last ISL game because of a red card against Hyderabad FC. But he made amends against Al Hilal by making three saves from close range.
Coach Des Buckingham would have been proud of his team’s effort with a 0-0 scoreline at the break. But what followed was a script similar to the first leg. In Riyadh a couple of weeks earlier, Mumbai had fought hard to trail by just one goal till the 66th minute, but Al Hilal had stamped their authority and slammed five goals from the 67th minute.
On Monday, things began to crumble from the 54th when defender Mehtab Singh was given the marching orders with a second yellow card. The 25-year-old and his teammates weren’t happy as that decision went on to have a major impact on the contest.
Eight minutes later, Brazilian forward Delgado headed from inside the six yard box to break the deadlock. It was a goal that seemed inevitable as Al Hilal was building pressure from both flanks. The outcome of the match was sealed in the 85th minute when Mitrovic’s header from a corner found the back of the net.
Mumbai struggled to play in Al Hilal’s half once they were reduced to 10 men. The visitors had a big advantage but as Buckingham had pointed out, the Saudi team’s superiority in terms of fitness was undeniable as the match progressed. If it wasn’t for Lachenpa’s brilliance, they could have won with a much bigger margin.
A day earlier at the press conference, Buckingham was asked if he thought the home team would receive support during the game. The 38-year-old was left a bit bemused and said he hoped that would be the case.
Ahead of kick-off on Monday, fans could be seen entering the stadium in droves. It made for an interesting sight as despite Neymar’s absence due to injury, there were plenty of youngsters sporting the Brazilian star’s name on their jerseys. However, once the game began, Buckingham would’ve been left with no doubt as the 30,000-plus attendees were firmly behind the hosts. But sadly for them, things didn’t go their way on the pitch.