The Hero Super Cup 2023, on Saturday, April 15, 2023, witnessed an upset as NorthEast United FC defeated Hero Indian Super League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC 2-1 at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri.
Mumbai City FC are without their foreign recruits in this tournament and playing with an all-Indian side. While Colombian striker Wilmar Jordan Gil scored both goals for the winners, Lalengmawia Ralte, more known as Apuia, was the lone marksman for Mumbai City.
The result threw Group D wide open with three teams having a chance to qualify for the semi-finals. At the end of the second round, Chennaiyin FC have three points, and NorthEast United and Mumbai City have three points each. Churchill Brothers have only one point and are out of the running for the knockouts.
The Guwahati side delivered a commendable first half display, constantly putting pressure on the Islanders’ rather vulnerable defence. As expected, though, Des Buckingham’s men did find a couple of breakthroughs, but couldn’t meet the end product.
In the fifth minute, Lallianzuala Chhangte cut inside and went for an ambitious shot from outside the box. But the winger’s effort bounced off the wrong side of the crossbar before going for a goal kick.
NorthEast United, however, immediately hit back in the seventh minute as Gani Ahmed Nigam went for a headed attempt from inside the box. But the midfielder’s effort went just wide off the target.
In the 25th minute, the Guwahati team had another opportunity when Wilmar Jordan Gil tactfully attempted a header from an incoming free-kick, but saw his effort denied by the woodwork.
NorthEast United kept playing on the counter-attack and came tantalisingly close to scoring on a few occasions. Eventually, in the 32nd minute, they capitalised on an error from Mumbai City’s Mehtab Singh who handled the ball inside the box, following a cross from Emil Benny. The resultant penalty was slotted home coolly by Jordan, as NorthEast United went up 1-0.
Before half-time, Chhangte had an opportunity to pull the scores level, but the 24-year-old couldn’t get a proper connection and his effort from the top of the box was cleared out by the NorthEast United defence.
Despite recording a 68% ball possession as against NorthEast’s 32%, Mumbai City couldn’t find the back of the net. Nevertheless, midfielder Apuia Ralte put on a quality show in the centre of the park for Mumbai ensuring they had at least one positive to take from the game.
Following the break, NorthEast United went on to pile more misery on the Mumbai City defence. In the 50th minute, Alex Saji took matters into his own hands and went for a daunting run from the right flank to inside the box. In the process, Gani Ahmed had a powerful shot on target and goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa’s block resulted in the ball landing in Jordan’s feet. The Colombian forward made no mistake in tapping it in and making it 2-0 for his side.
On the other hand, Mumbai City kept moving forward and displayed a typical short passing game. With 20 minutes left on the clock, they almost pulled one back through substitute Ayush Chhikara. The youthful striker fended off three opposition defenders and managed to take a shot on target. But his blistering shot bounced off the crossbar and came back into play.
Finally, it was Apuia, who pulled one back for his side in the 85th minute. The midfielder charged in on a loose ball and drove it powerfully as the ball hit the underside of the bar and into the back of the net, catching goalkeeper Mirshad Michu totally off guard.
NorthEast United will now face Churchill Brothers in their ultimate Hero Super Cup group stage game, while Mumbai City FC lock horns with Chennaiyin FC on April 19 in a deciding match