Five days after conceding a heartbreaking equaliser in the 97th minute to be held by Hyderabad FC, Mumbai City FC produced a stunning fightback of their own to beat Punjab FC 2-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday.
Mumbai’s victory took them to second position on the ISL points table, with three wins and two draws, while Punjab were left languishing in 11th position.
Trailing by a goal at the break, Des Buckingham’s side began the second half with much more intensity. Having attacked from the wings for the most part, the hosts changed strategy and started taking shot after shot from more central positions just outside the box. Lalengmawia Ralte hit the crossbar and it only seemed like a matter of time before Mumbai would draw level.
In the 82nd minute, Greg Stewart sent the home fans into a frenzy as his left-footed shot from distance found the bottom right corner. It was just the sort of boost Mumbai needed to make a final push in what were sultry conditions. And merely seconds later, Jorge Pereyra Diaz gave the hosts the lead after a brilliant assist by Lallianzuala Chhangte.
To cap off a forgettable night for the visitors, Dimitrios Chatziisaias was shown a second yellow card deep in stoppage time.
Earlier, in the first half, Mumbai dominated possession (67 percent), but that was about it. The Islanders struggled to create a single clear chance despite dictating play for the most part.
To make matters worse, as many as five Mumbai players received yellow cards in the first half.
Vikram Partap Singh was perhaps lucky to get away with just a yellow after a studs-up challenge in the third minute. Rostyn Griffiths was then booked in the 20th minute. Finally, Stewart was shown yellow for what the referee thought was a dive at the edge of the Punjab box, while Rahul Bheke and Mehtab Singh were booked for protesting that decision.
Punjab defended with grit, despite their Greek coach Staikos Vergetis yelling his lungs out at the touchline on more than one occasion. They created a good chance in the 15th minute as Juan Mera sent a cross from the right and Luka Majcen’s header from inside the six yard box was blocked by goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz. They were rewarded eventually.
In the 38th minute, they finally broke through on the back of a mistake by Stewart, one of Mumbai’s senior-most players. The 33-year-old Scot was dispossessed rather easily by Krishnananda Singh, who played the ball to forward Luka Majcen. The Punjab skipper set himself up calmly at the edge of the box on the right and slotted the ball into the far corner.