Mumbai City FC suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Iranian side FC Nassaji Mazandaran in their opening fixture of the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2023-24 group stage at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Monday.

The Islanders put up a valiant effort throughout the match but were undone by goals in each half from FC Nassaji Mazandaran, who made their debut in the ACL on Monday.

Mumbai City FC head coach, Des Buckingham, fielded a strong lineup with Rostyn Griffiths and Tiri pairing up as the two center-backs, while Yoell van Nieff slotted into the midfield alongside Apuia. The rest of the squad was quite routine.

The Islanders started the game on the front foot, enjoying possession from the very beginning, and the first real goalscoring opportunity came in the 9th minute when Lallianzuala Chhangte was played through on goal by Jorge Pereyra Diaz. However, the shot from the former went just wide of the goal.

The home side applied more pressure in search of the opening goal while Nassaji relied on their counterattacks. However, in the 34th minute, it was the away side that broke the deadlock through Ehsan Hosseini, who beat Phurba Lachenpa at the near post. Bipin Singh had an opportunity to level the scoreline just before halftime, but his powerful attempt was off-target.

Mumbai City FC came into the second half with a task to do, but despite creating several opportunities, they were not clinical in the final third. Just after the hour mark, Mohammad Reza Azadi capitalized on a mistake from Akash Mishra and doubled the scoreline for FC Nassaji Mazandaran. Buckingham brought on Vikram Pratap Singh to replace Mishra, switching to a more attacking option.

Chhangte had the best opportunity of the night in the 82nd minute when Stewart delivered a teasing ball to him, but the winger failed to time his jump, and his mistimed header missed the mark. This also dashed Mumbai City FC’s comeback hopes for the night. Stewart had another opportunity in the dying minutes of the match, but the Nassaji keeper was well aware and parried it away to safety.

The Islanders will next travel to Uzbekistan to take on PFC Navbahor Namangan in their second group-stage game in the AFC Champions League.