Despite Mumbai City FC: Indian Super League (ISL) League Shield winners Mumbai City FC started their AFC Champions League 2023-24 campaign on a disappointing note, going down 0-2 to Iranian club Nassaji Mazandaran FC here on Monday.
Ehsan Hosseini (34th minute) and Mohammad Azadi (62nd minute) scored for the Iranian club as they quelled a strong challenge put up by the Islanders, who showcased immense attacking prowess but were unable to find the finishing touch.
Mumbai City started the game in typical attacking fashion and was piling on the pressure early on. The Islanders created the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute but failed as the shot was saved at the near post.
Diaz’s movement in the final third was posing a lot of challenges to the Nassaji back-line. In the 9th minute, Jorge picked up the ball on the right wing and made his way to the byline, he found Chhangte with a low cross in the centre. Chhangte unleashed a devastating shot that was inches away from finding the back of the net.
The Islanders were stifling the Nassaji attack superbly as Apuia Ralte and Yoel van Nieff were making sure they were winning the ball in midfield and supporting the high press led by Greg and Jorge. Nassaji were struggling to get out of their half and Phurba was relatively untroubled in the first 15 minutes of the game. The next chance of the game broke the way of the Islanders in the 19th minute.
Against the run of play, Nassaji Mazandaran took the lead in the 33rd minute. A cheeky ball by Nassaji’s captain Hossein Zamehran right outside the box found Mohammad Hosseini on the left wing behind Rahul Bheke. Mohammad Hosseini’s first touch saw him break into the Islanders’ penalty box and he put the ball past Lachenpa with his second touch to make it 1-0 in favour of the Iranian club.
Despite Mumbai City FC dominating possession, they were struggling to create clear-cut chances against Nassaji as they were chasing the game.
In added time at the end of the first half, Mumbai City FC conjured another chance to equalise but Bipin Singh was inches wide of the mark as the Iranian club led 1-0 at the break.
Mumbai City FC came out for the second half in the hope of equalising quickly. The Islanders created the first chance of the half in the 52nd minute. Chhangte was found on the right wing by a long ball, the diminutive winger then put in a dangerous ball toward Pereyra Diaz in the centre. The ball unfortunately never reached Diaz thanks to an interception by a Nassaji defender, his clearance made its way to Yoel van Nieff who unleashed a venous strike but it was off-target.
Nassaji were absorbing the pressure brilliantly and launching counters. The Iranian club made some tactical changes at the start of the second half as they brought on Mherdad Abdi and Frashid Esmaeili for Hossein Zamehrani and Mohammad Hosseini.
Soon after Nassaji doubled their lead in the 66th minute of the game. A scruffed clearance by Rostyn put Akash Mishra under pressure inside his own box on the left wing. Mishra was dispossessed by Frashid Esmaeili, who drove to the byline and put in a low ball towards the centre to find Mohammadreza Azadi, who put the ball past Lachenpa to make it 2-0 for Nassaji Mazandaran.
Nassaji were sitting back in their own half and looking to hit the Islanders on the counter. Mumbai City FC was throwing men forward in the hopes of cutting down the deficit. In the 71st minute of the game, the Islanders created the best chance of the game as Greg drove forward with the ball. The Scotsman took a powerful yet speculative shot from a distance that was right at the keeper and was grasped by him with ease.
Des Buckingham made the right substitutions to strengthen the attack. They created many chances but continued to squander chances.