Mumbai City FC became the first Indian team to win an AFC Champions League game, after a comeback 2-1 win over Air Force Club of Iraq in a Group B encounter. Hammadi Ahmad opened the scoring in the 59th minute, before Diego Mauricio’s penalty (70th) and Rahul Bheke’s header in the 75th minute complete the turnaround as Mumbai earned all three points.
The result pushes Mumbai to second place in the group standings level with leaders Al Shabab, who face Al Jazira later.
Much like their opening fixture against Al Shabab, Mumbai City opted to begin the game with a structure that enabled passing out from the back. However, Air Force Club had clearly done their homework and pressed high, forcing their Indian opponents into a couple of calamitous errors at the back within the opening ten minutes.
Ahmed Jahouh’s pass back to goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa only found Alaa Abbas, although Lachenpa did well to deflect the AFC forward’s strike away from goal. Moments later, Jahouh gave the ball away once more in his own half, with Rahul Bheke’s header back towards Lachenpa also causing a fair bit of consternation.
Mumbai settled into the game but offered little going forward, although Air Force had similar problems as well. The Indian side spurned a great chance to take the lead at the half-hour mark, with an unmarked Diego Mauricio heading over after Jahouh had chipped in a beauty of a cross from a short corner.
Air Force had a couple of great chances of their own as the half wore on, only for poor finishing to let them down. Vikram Pratap Singh also eschewed a great opportunity to open the scoring two minutes before half-time, with Ahmed Khalaf sliding in to block his shot after Lallianzuala Chhangte had found Singh in space in the box.
��FT | ���� Air Force Club 1️⃣- 2️⃣ Mumbai City FC ����
HISTORIC. The Islanders become the first-ever ���� Indian Club to win an #ACL match. Rahul Bheke, a local Mumbai lad, sweetened the night by scoring the winner ��#ACL2022 | #AFCvMUM pic.twitter.com/wy3KAZapiQ
– #ACL2022 (@TheAFCCL) April 11, 2022
Brad Inman replaced Singh at half-time, with Hammadi Ahmad and Ahmed Lafta coming on for Air Force Club. Ahmad was straight into the action, drawing a superb save from Lachenpa a minute into the second half, as the Mumbai goalkeeper charged him down in the box. Mumbai’s problems continued as Jahouh was robbed by Dhurgham Ismail and he squared it for Shareef Abdulkadhim, only for the latter to shoot wide with the goal at his mercy.
There was no such profligacy from Ahmad on the hour mark, as he pounced on a mishit shot in the box to curl it past Lachenpa, thus opening the scoring. The Iraqi side took their foot off the pedal after taking the lead, and the hero of their 2-1 win over Al Jazira, Ali Kadhim, offered Mumbai City a lifeline with a reckless sliding tackle on Diego Mauricio in the box.
The Brazilian stepped up to take the resulting penalty, slamming it home emphatically after sending the opposing goalkeeper the wrong way. The game turned completely on its head in the 75th minute, as Bheke rose high to glance Jahouh’s corner into the bottom corner and give Mumbai the lead, thus becoming the first Indian to ever score in the AFC Champions League.
Air Force pressed on, with Ahmad going close in the 85th minute, heading a corner from Ismail narrowly wide of goal. Six minutes of added time were announced, but Mumbai held their nerve to pull off a historic victory over the three-time AFC Cup winners.
MCFC 0-3 Al Shabab (10.45 PM, April 8)
Air Force Club 1-2 MCFC (10.45 PM, April 11)
Al Jazira vs MCFC (10.45 PM, April 14)
MCFC vs Al Jazira (10.45 PM, April 18)
Al Shabab vs MCFC (1.45 AM, April 23)
MCFC vs Al Quwa Al Jawiya (1.45 AM, April 27)
The LIVE telecast will be on Disney+ Hotstar/Star Sports.