Mumbai City FC (MCFC) got the better of Chennaiyin FC (CFC) 5-3 in a thrilling third quarter-final of the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup here at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) in Kolkata, thanks to a Greg Stewart hat-trick and pair of goals from Lallianzuala Chhangte.
Croatian striker Petar Sliskovic, Jockson Dhas, and Rahim Ali scored for Chennaiyin FC. The match was decided in extra time. The Islanders, therefore, move on to play the first semi-final at the same venue against Mohammedan Sporting Club on the 14th of September.
The first half was cagey at best with both teams trying to get a measure of the other. There were a few shots from the distance and some from inside the box but no golden opportunities to score. Among the incidents, Chennaiyin FC’s Ghanaian striker Kwame Karikari got injured and had to be replaced by Rahim Ali in the 19th minute of the game.
The first goal of the match was the only difference between the two sides and it came off a penalty awarded to Mumbai when Ahmed Jahouh played Amay Ranawade through inside the box and keeper Debjit brought him down. Stewart took the kick and although Debjit guessed right and got his hands to it, could not prevent the ball from going into the back of the net.
Chennaiyin gaffer Tomas Brdaric got in Ninthoi in place of Edwin Vanspaul at the break and that turned out to be an inspired substitution. In the 55th minute, Thapa took a trademark corner which fell for Duker near the far post and he tapped it back in for Ninthoi who had an open goal in front of him but hit wide. The goal did come four minutes later.
Ninthoi got the assist with a wonderful lofted ball played inside the box anticipating Sliskovic’s run. The Croat got ahead of Rostyn Griffiths and directed a powerful header past a diving Lachenpa in the near post. Des Buckingham, the Mumbai coach then made his moves bringing in Mourtada Fall for the first time in the season and Gurkirat in place of Mehtab and Rostyn. Brdaric also replaced Aakash Sangwan with Sajid Dhot.
Mumbai probably thought they had the winner thanks to a Greg Stewart masterclass in the middle of the Chennaiyin FC half in the 78th minute. He strolled around before making a run towards the box drawing in defenders towards him and then released Bipin Singh on the left. Bipin’s cross was fended away by Debjit but only till a lurking Chhangte came in on the far post.
The highest scorer of the tournament so far made no mistake, tapping in his sixth of the tournament with ease. Stewart then almost got his second for himself four minutes later, when Chhangte this time found him with a cross. Stewart was unmarked inside the box but his left-footed strike just missed the target. Brdaric then made another substitution which again paid dividends bringing in Jockson Dhas for Sajal Bag.
With a minute to go for regulation time Ninthoi, who was keeping himself busy on the right flank., delivered another inviting floater inside the box. Fall was first to meet it but his clearing header went only as far as Jockson lurking at the far post. The substitute chested it down and unleashed a powerful right-footed volley which bulged the back of the net. Both Stewart and Ninthoi also got chances for themselves in stoppage time but regulation time ended 2-2.
Chhangte was at it again however in the fourth minute of the first half of extra-time. Greg Stewart took the free-kick after Gurkirat was fouled and the latter’s header found its way to Mourtada Fall at the far post. He volleyed back in towards the center of the six-yard box and Chhangte was at the right place unmarked to head it past Debjit. It was his seventh of the IndianOil Durand Cup. Chennaiyin FC were still not giving up and in the 97th Ninthoi put Rahim Ali through and his shot beat Lachenpa, but rattled the bar and went out.
Stewart then got his second of the game and fifth of the tournament in the 100th minute. He went off on one of his solo square runs inside the box and feigned two attempts at a shot before letting go with his left in the third, to beat Debjit comprehensively. If Mumbai thought the game had been put to rest, they would be surprised.
Chennaiyin FC got a corner in the second half of extra-time and Thapa delivered the assured ball. After a few touches, the ball fell for Duker who pulled out of a shot but passed cleverly to Rahim to his left. The Indian striker bulged the net with a thunder strike.
With Chennaiyin FC chasing the game furiously it was Stewart who finally sealed the deal for the Islanders. On a counter, Chhangte found Stewart’s run and played him on. The Scotsman with a marker on his shoulder pulled away and placed with his favourite left-foot past a diving Debjit to complete a well-deserved hat-trick and his sixth of the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup.
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