Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC played out a hard fought 1-1 draw at the Mumbai Football Arena, here on Saturday, a result that is in favour of the current Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 table-toppers.
Hyderabad FC came into the game with nothing less than a win that would help their cause in the League Shield Winners race, but were kept in check by the Islanders throughout the game.
Having had a two-week break before this fixture, Hyderabad FC looked like they had devised a higher press than usual and had the Islanders pinned to their own penalty area at the start.
But in the 20th minute, Lallianzuala Chhangte got involved down the right flank, combining with Lalengmawia Ralte to break into Hyderabad FC’s box. That move ended with Chhangte getting his shot over the bar, but it signalled a change in momentum that would eventually hurt Hyderabad FC.
In the very next minute, Chhangte was in action on the right once again. This time, he held the ball under pressure and chipped it across the face of the goal for Bipin Singh, whose header on target was kept out by Nikhil Poojary’s hand.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz stepped up to take the resultant penalty and drilled it into the roof of the net to move into double-figures for the season and to put Mumbai City FC in front. The home side proceeded to take control of the ball from there on, with Hyderabad FC reverting to a less intense press as they struggled to find chances to break into the final third.
In the second half, it was initially Mumbai City FC who created chances that Hyderabad FC were able to stop. But the visitors found their first big opening in the 66th minute to find the equaliser.
Against the run of play, holding midfielder Hitesh Sharma saw a space to run into between the defenders on the left side. Mohammad Yasir played him in from the wing, and the midfielder kept his cool to lift the ball into a narrow opening at the near post.
Hyderabad FC kept the pressure on, with Bartholomew Ogbeche and substitute Hallicharan Narzary testing the table toppers from range.
Mumbai City FC were forced to bring on Greg Stewart at this point, and the talisman came close to producing a winner in the 83rd minute. He brought down Bipin’s cross from an awkward height, juggled the ball to turn the defenders away, only to have his close range poke saved brilliantly by Gurmeet Singh.
That turned out to be the last chance of note for the home team, and the game eventually ended in a draw as neither defence relented.
The result didn’t change a lot with respect to the points difference at the top of the table, but was in Mumbai City FC’s favour, as they head into their final three games unbeaten and needing to seal just five points out of nine in case Hyderabad FC end up winning all of their last four games.
They go on the road next week to face FC Goa on February 11. Hyderabad FC will stay on the road as well, taking on Odisha FC on February 10.