Goal-scorer Bipin Singh is currently the all-time joint top-scorer of the Islanders with 15 goals.

Mumbai City FC (MCFC) reached the finals of the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup, overcoming local giants Mohammedan SC (MDSP) 1-0 in the first semi-final played here at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK). Bipin Singh got the all-important strike in the final minute of regulation time, courtesy a Lallianzuala Chhangte assist. This will be the Islanders first ever final in Asia’s oldest tournament in their very first appearance. It was an exciting match with the local side dominating for large parts, but the Islanders clinched the deal when it mattered.

The Black and White brigade rattled the Islanders in the first 15 mins  of the game, winning as many as three corners in that time and players like Prtiam Singh and Sk. Faiaz switching flanks and looking dangerous on both of them. In that period, all the Islanders managed a free-kick which was wasted by Greg Stewart.

The game evened up at the half-hour mark with MCFC slowly asserting control. They forced about three corners in about five minutes and from the first one, Mourtada Fall got the first real chance to score but Ndiaye was up to the task at the heart of the Mohammedan defense.

The Black and Whites also did not let up on their intensity to their credit, despite the pace at which they started, but the best chance of the half came to Gurkirat when Bipin Singh drove in from the left and crossed, but the burly Islanders forward missed to tap in from close.

In between, the Islanders did loose Amey Ranawade to injury in the 22nd minute and Des Buckingham had to bring in Mandar Rao Desai, perhaps a bit earlier than he wanted to. The half ended honours even.

Mohammedan SC began the second half with the same vigour and just five minutes in, the ball fell kindly for Abhash Thapa after a lovely team move involving Marcus and Faiaz, but he failed to test keeper Lachenpa with a horribly mistimed connection.

Mumbai City came back with a vengeance soon however when Greg Stewart played a 1-2 with Gurkirat and broke inside to shoot towards goal, but Zothanmawia probably brought off the save of the tournament to deny the Scotsman.

Cheryshov then made his first move at just over the hour mark, bringing in Abhishek Halder in place of Azhar Mallick. Des Buckingham too made a couple of changes soon after bringing in Mehtab Singh and Noguera Ripoll in place of Gurkirat and Griffiths.

There was no let-up in the Mohammedan SC attacks however and they came close thrice in the space of five minutes or so. Marcus first in the 64th minute came dangerously close with a free-kick which brushed the side-netting. Then in the 68thminute, Pritam once again broke in from the left and found Marcus free with his cross but the Trinidadian’s volley was off target. A minute later Pritam himself got a lay-off from Faiaz in an inviting position, but his shot was deflected out for a corner.

The fact that they failed to score despite such dominance would come back to haunt them. Just as everyone thought that the match would go to extra-time, Greg Stewart spotted a Chhangte free-run on the right flank and played him. The diminutive winger dashed inside the box and played square for an onrushing Bipin Singh to tap home.

Mumbai City will await the winners of the second semi-final on Thursday between Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC, which will be played at the VYBK itself.

Tomorrow’s match

Match 46 of the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup will see Bengaluru FC take on Hyderabad FC in the second semi-final at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK). The kick-off is at 6.00 pm.

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