AFC Champions League: Mumbai City FC succumb to Ever Banega’s Al Shabab in opener

Ever Banega, an Olympic gold medallist with Argentina, scored a brace for Al Shabab to subject MCFC to a 3-0 loss. Turki Al Ammar scored the other goal.

By Olympics
Picture by Mumbai City FC

India’s Mumbai City FC lost their opening match of the AFC Champions League 2021-22 against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab by a 3-0 scoreline at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd in Riyadh on Friday.

It was Mumbai City’s debut match in the ACL – Asia’s biggest club football competition.

Forward Ever Banega, who was Lionel Messi’s team-mate during Argentina’s gold medal win at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, scored a brace for the Saudi side, who were making a comeback to the continental showpiece after seven years. Turki Al Ammar scored the third goal for the hosts.

The result means MCFC are at the bottom of Group B with 0 points and a goal difference of -3. The Indian Super League (ISL) side will next play Iraq’s Air Force Club on Monday. UAE’s Al Jazira FSC are the fourth club in the group.

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham opted to start with Phurba Lachenpa on goal and the MCFC custodian had a busy start to the match with Al Shabab bossing the possession early on. The 24-year-old custodian’s first involvement in the match came at the two-minute mark after Hattan Bahebri broke down the left and squared the ball for Nawaf Al Abid.

Al Abid tried to guide it in with his left foot to the ball but Lachenpa got his finger to the ball. Midway through the first half, Al Abid got another chance to open the scoring after latching onto a fabulous cross from Carlos Junior but his attempted dink went wide.

Al Shabab came close to scoring again in the 28th minute after Bahebri’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected into Ahmed Sharahili’s path. With the goal at his mercy, the centre-back fluffed his lines.

Nine minutes before the half-time whistle, though, Ever Banega scored his maiden AFC Champions League goal through a penalty to give Al Shabab the lead.

Lachenpa brought Carlos inside the box, forcing the referee to point towards the spot, The Argentine, who was captaining the Saudi team, stepped up and sent the MCFC goalkeeper the other way to make the scoreline 1-0.

After the lemon break, Banega almost turned provider as he set up Carlos with an easy chance but the Brazilian was denied by another heroic save by Lachenpa.

Al Shabab, however, continued their raids on the MCFC goal and doubled their lead in the 68th minute after a nice passing move. Abdullah Al Jouhi pulled the ball back for Banega, who calmly slotted it in for his second goal of the match.

Second-half substitute Al Ammar extended the home side’s lead with an outside of the boot finish from a cross by team-mate Fawaz Al Saqour.

Mumbai had a couple of shots at goal through Bipin Singh in the first half and Lallianzuala Chhangte in the second but neither could hit the target. The ISL club also had a penalty appeal turned down in the first period.

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