Mumbai City FC made history on Monday by defeating Iraq's Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Air Force Team) 2-1 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to become the first Indian club to win a match at the AFC Champions League. Making their debut, Mumbai rallied from behind to win, thanks to Diego Mauricio's and Rahul Bheke.
In the 59th minute, Hammadi Ahmed scored the winning goal for the three-time AFC Cup champions. Mumbai City FC is only the second club from India to compete in the AFC Champions League. Last year, FC Goa became the first Indian team to compete in the continental tournament, when they played six matches, drew three times, and lost three times.
The Islanders are now tied for second place in the AFC Champions League 2021-22 group standings with Air Force Club on three points. After a victory against the bottom-placed Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates, Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia, against whom Mumbai City lost their first game, are in the first position with six points.
Des Buckingham, the head coach of Mumbai City FC, has introduced Diego Mauricio, a forward, and Amey Ranawade, a defender, in place of Cassio Gabriel and Mehtab Singh, respectively. Bradden Inman, a midfielder, was also added to the bench.
Mumbai City FC, the Indian Super League champions for 2020-21, controlled possession in the first ten minutes. The tide was stopped, though, as MCFC goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa rushed out to deal with a wayward back pass in the build-up.
After their first shot in the 15th minute, Air Force Club steadily gained control of the game, putting Mumbai City FC under pressure and threatening with two corners in the next two minutes.
At the half-hour mark, Mumbai City FC had their first serious chance. Diego Mauricio was unmarked in the center of the box after a quick corner exchange between attacker Lallianzuala Chhangte and midfielder Ahmed Jahouh. The Indian team, however, was unable to capitalize since the striker sent the ball wide.
Hussein Jabbar and Dhurgham Ismail spearheaded the Iraqi offensive, but they were unable to advance past Phurba Lachenpa.
In the 42nd minute, forward Vikram Pratap Singh recovered the ball in the opponent half and moved it forward with Chhangte, giving Mumbai City FC their final chance of the first half. Vikram took a shot at goal from a tight angle, but the opponent goalie blocked it just in time.
In the second half, MCFC substituted Brad Inman for Vikram Pratap Singh, but it was the Air Force Club who took the lead in the 59th minute through replacement Hammadi Ahmed.
On the left flank, Shareef Abdulkadhim had the ball and passed it to Safaa Hadi. The midfielder took a shot after a fast one-two with Hammadi Ahmed. Mourtada Fall stopped his shot, but the deflection dropped to Hammadi, who sent the ball beyond the Mumbai City goalie.
Mumbai City FC swiftly recovered and equalized in the 68th minute. Bipin Singh deflected a long ball from the opponent and sent it to his Brazilian teammate Diego Mauricio. In a frantic attempt, Diego Mauricio raced into the box and was challenged from behind by Ali Khadem.
Diego Mauricio equalized for the debutants after Mumbai City FC was awarded a penalty. Mumbai City FC, buoyed by the score, began to make solid attacking plays, earning a corner in the 74th minute. The corner was taken by Ahmed Jahouh who swung it perfectly to Rahul Bheke's right. The Indian player made no mistakes, easily finding the back of the net to become the league's first Indian goal scorer.
With 19 shots on goal against Mumbai City's five, Air Force Club dominated the game from the outset. In addition, the Iraqi team had 14 corners in the match, eight more than the Indian team. They came near several times in the last minutes of the game, but the result remained 2-1 in favor of Mumbai City FC.
On Thursday, Mumbai City will face Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates at the same site.