Mumbai City beat NorthEast United 1-0 courtesy an Arnold Issoko (4') goal at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday to go third in the league table.
NorthEast United coach Eelco Schattorie made a single change to their starting line-up from their previous game against Delhi Dynamos as Lalthathanga 'Puitea' Khawlhring got his first start in place of veteran defender Gurwinder Singh. On the other hand, Jorge Costa decided to stick to the winning combination that sneaked a narrow 1-0 victory over Chennaiyin.
It was a lively start to the match as Mumbai got their noses ahead within the first five minutes of the game. After Paulo Machado's corner was half-heartedly cleared by NorthEast defence and the Portuguese got a second bite of the cherry. This time he lashed a shot across the face of goal. Arnold Issoko was at the right place to nick it towards goal and a goalmouth scramble by Pawan Kumar was not enough to prevent it from crossing the line.
The Highlanders started attacking with intent and came agonisingly close to find their equaliser in the 23rd minute when Bartholomew Ogbeche peeled off his marker Lucian Goian to latch on to an inch-perfect cross from Redeem Tlang. Amrinder Singh did not move a muscle but was lucky to see the header miss the mark by a few inches.
Mumbai looked threatening from set-pieces and could have gone 2-0 up only if Rafael Bastos was able to keep his shot on target after he was perfectly set up by Machado with a rolling ball just inside the penalty box.
Just after the break, NorthEast got another gilt-edged chance to go on level-terms after Ogbeche found Mascia with a delicious cross from the left flank. But the Uruguayan could not apply the finishing touch under pressure from Subhasish Bose.
It was end-to-end stuff in the second half as Mumbai continued to threaten the Highlanders with Moudou Sougou missing a couple of sitters. The Senegalese striker sent a lob over the first time with just the goalkeeper to beat and then blazed over after being set-up by Issoko.
With 10 minutes to go, Amrinder did well to stop Ogbeche from getting his seventh goal of the season as he made himself big enough to block his shot. The loose ball fell for Rowlin Borges at the edge of the box who pulled the trigger at the first instance but his volley sailed over the crosspiece.
Schattorie's men further upped their ante in the closing minutes of the match but Mumbai's defence held their shape to protect their lead.
Both teams will once again return to action after the international break as NorthEast host Kerala Blasters on November 23 whereas Mumbai would host ATK a day later.