Pune, Dec 6 (IANS): Two well-executed goals from set-piece movements paved the way for PFC Navbahor Namangan’s 2-1 victory over hosts Mumbai City FC in their concluding Group D AFC Champions League 2023-24 match at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Complex on Monday.
While the win confirmed the Uzbek side’s entry to the round of 16 for the first time, Mumbai City FC finished their campaign without a point, though they managed to score their first group league goal in this outing.
In all fairness, with a little more luck and precision, it could have been Mumbai City’s night in the floodlit stadium. They not only surprised their mighty opponents by scoring first but also created enough opportunities in the second session to come close to scoring on more than one occasion.
But then, Navbahor are certainly a superior side, tighter in defence and possessing more than one plan in midfield and attack. They extracted the best out of the set piece movements and against Mumbai City FC, it helped them take home three points.
A day before the match, Mumbai City FC coach Anthony Fernandes promised to play for a win. His boys kept his word. The home side, with the sparse crowd in the stands, started on an attacking note and picked up the lead in the 15th minute.
After Jorge Pereyra Diaz's attempted header was parried away by the goalkeeper, Abdenasser El Khayati, who was lurking around in the area, slammed it in. The celebrations that followed were very much there. After all, it was Mumbai City FC’s first goal in the tournament.
Mumbai City could not hold on to their lead for a long time. The Uzbeks levelled the score at the stroke of half an hour courtesy of an infringement by Akash Mishra just outside the area. Jamshid Iskanderov’s left-footed curling free-kick was a piece of beauty; it beat the wall and the goalkeeper Mohammed Nawaz hands down.
The Uzbek side’s match-winner came moments before half-time from yet another set-piece movement. This time Jamshid was the creator, as his low corner kick eluded everyone before reaching Jovan Dokic, who beat a jungle of legs with an angular shot.
Unperturbed by the setback, Mumbai City made several inroads in the rival area in the second session. With Rahul Bheke and Vikram Partap Singh donning their respective roles with confidence, Mumbai City attackers kept Navbahor defenders busy by making inroads through the middle. Not that it produced the required effect, but things were never easy for the Uzbeks till the final whistle was blown.