Kalinga Super Cup: Mumbai City FC edge past Gokulam, Punjab FC and Chennaiyin FC play out draw
In Group C of the Kalinga Cup, Mumbai City FC had to grind it out for the three points against Gokulam Kerala FC while Punjab FC and Chennaiyin FC shared the spoils.
Mumbai City FC had to work hard to secure a 2-1 victory over Gokulam Kerala FC, marking the beginning of their Kalinga Super Cup campaign at the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday.
While Mumbai City FC kept their opponents on their toes throughout the match, it took an injury-time penalty to secure all three points. Gokulam Kerala FC captain Alejandro Sanchez gave the I-League side an unexpected lead, but Mumbai City FC forward Ayush Chhikara brought them back into the game in the second half with a brilliant touch, sending the ball past the opposition's goalkeeper Avilash Paul. Abdenasser El Khayati sealed the victory in style, converting from the spot in injury time to conclude the match 2-1 for Mumbai City FC.
The Islanders wasted no time in showcasing their prowess, initiating waves of attacks into the opposition box as early as the third minute. El Khayati delivered a pin-point cross for Nathan Rodrigues, who unfortunately shot wide of the target. In the 11th minute, Jayesh Rane won the ball just outside the box and played it in for Gurkirat Singh, who failed to give Mumbai City FC the lead.
As missed chances accumulated for Mumbai City FC, Gokulam Kerala FC capitalized on the opportunity. In the 23rd minute, Cameroonian defender Aminou Bouba headed a long free-kick goal-bound, which ricocheted off the post for Sanchez to tap it into the net, stealing a lead against the run of play.
However, the Islanders were far from finished. Hmingthanmawia Ralte soon headed the ball past the keeper to level the scores, but the referee reversed the decision upon further inspection. El Khayati and Rane continued to challenge the Gokulam Kerala FC defense, creating numerous chances. In the 61st minute, 21-year-old Chhikara, substituted in by head coach Petr Kratky, established himself as a super sub, leveling the scores in the 76th minute with an intricate pass from El Khayati.
In the dying seconds of injury time, Spanish midfielder Alberto Noguera entered the box from the right wing, forcing a tackle from his marker. The referee pointed to the spot, giving the Islanders the chance they deserved. El Khayati beautifully placed the ball into the bottom right corner to conclude the match 2-1.
Punjab FC and Chennaiyin FC share the spoils
In the second match of the day, Chennaiyin FC managed to secure a 1-1 draw against Punjab FC, thanks to a late goal from Jordan Murray.
As the two teams battled toe to toe, Colombian forward Wilmar Jordan scored an early goal, and until late in the game, it seemed like Punjab FC would secure three points. However, in the final 10 minutes, Australian forward Murray equalized for the Marina Machans, salvaging a point for his side.
Punjab FC wasted no time from kick-off, scoring from the first chance they created. Within four minutes, French midfielder Madih Talal provided a sweet ball for Jordan, who sent it past the keeper. In the 11th minute, Chennaiyin FC created their first chance through Connor Shields, who set up Murray with a through ball, but the Australian couldn't find the net.
In the 37th minute, midfield maestro Rafael Crivellaro took a free-kick, but the ball was safely cleared by the Shers. Just before the half-time whistle, Amarjit Singh Kiyam received a straight red for a challenge on Ninthoinganba Meetei, leaving Punjab FC with 10 men.
Midfielder Ricky Shabong attempted to double the lead for the Sher’s with a shot from outside the box, but Samik Mitra managed to grab the ball after an initial fumble. Shields almost equalized for Chennaiyin FC in the 52nd minute, but his header off Aakash Sangwan’s cross flew over the bar.
A second yellow card against Crivellaro in the 69th minute left both teams with 10 men on the field. Finally, the Marina Machans found their equalizer when Shields sent a brilliant cross for Murray, who headed the ball home, making the final scoreline 1-1. Despite Punjab FC's continued attacking efforts in the dying seconds of the match, Mitra managed to keep the ball out of the net, concluding the match on level terms.