A 29th-minute breakaway goal from Mumbai City handed Bengaluru FC their first defeat of the 2018-19 Hero Indian Super League season at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
The top two teams were engaged in a hard-fought battle and the winner was decided courtesy of an emphatic finish by Paulo Machado in the first-half at the end of an excellent counter-attack.
With 27 points in the kitty, Mumbai equalled Bengaluru on points in the standings and are now placed on top of the table due to their head-to-head advantage.
With plenty at the stake at the top of the table, the teams were tentative with their forays in the early stages of the game.
Rahul Bheke, playing on the left side of the defence, was afforded space and time on the ball and the defender made full use to create a good opening for the visitors in the 16th minute. Bheke's cross found Xisco Hernandez in the centre of the box and the stand-in striker's half-baked attempt on goal was tipped over the bar by an alert Amrinder Singh.
Slightly against the run of play, as Bengaluru were finding their feet in the game, Mumbai broke the deadlock with a lightning-quick counter-attack in the 29th minute. Arnold Issoko headed clear Xisco’s corner-kick and set Rafael Bastos free on a counter up the field. The forward released Paulo Machado behind the defence and the midfielder slotted past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with aplomb to complete a move that lasted a mere 15 seconds.
Mumbai's willingness to sit back and hit Bengaluru on the counter frustrated the visitors in the final third. With the game in slow gear, a Kean Lewis cross from the left flank just before the break found Juanan in between the Mumbai centre-backs but the Bengaluru defender headed agonizingly wide.
Modou Sougou, having been restricted by the high defensive line of Bengaluru in the first half, beat the offside trap to connect to a long ball into the box in the 49th minute. The Senegalese striker tried to beat Gurpreet with a drilled effort from inside the box but the India custodian got down in time to keep it out.
While Bengaluru were restricted to efforts from distance, Issoko continued to threaten from the right. A teasing cross in the 56th minute found Machado in the box whose first-time shot needed a vital block from Erik Paartalu to keep the scoreline unchanged.
Sougou managed to beat the offside trap again in the 61st minute and was fed through on goal by Rafael Bastos. The striker's powerful shot on goal was saved well by Gurpreet.
Mumbai’s defence stood firm to prevent late drama and shut the doors on the league leaders to hand them their first league stage defeat in more than 12 months.