Mumbai City beat ATK Mohun Bagan 1-0 to become the first side to confirm a playoff spot this season. They showed their defensive resilience as they fought to cling onto the narrow lead under intense pressure from the home side at the YBK in Kolkata.
Mumbai started the stronger, creating chances early on. Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith faced a barrage of shots and singlehandedly kept the home team from falling behind the way Kerala Blasters had last week. Chhangte was through on goal twice after shaky defending from ATK Mohun Bagan, and in almost both cases was point-blank range from Kaith. In both instances, the goalkeeper came out on top.
In Diaz's absence, Greg Stewart pulled the strings from the centre forward area, and soon enough both him and Bipin Singh were imposing themselves on the game. The home side, even though they matched Mumbai City FC for possession and got nearly ten shots away in the first half, didn't manage to test Phurba Lachenpa in the league leaders' goal.
Mumbai City's relentless attack was bound to cost ATKMB, and ultimately it was an error by Kaith that led to the goal. Kaith had Chhangte's long-range shot from a central area covered, but couldn't muster enough strength with his left arm to tip the ball wide as the visitors went 1-0 up at half-time.
ATK Mohun Bagan brought a lot more aggression to the second half and had the visitors scrambling early on. Liston Colaco had the best of these after being slipped into the right channel and firing towards the far post to force Lachenpa into a diving save.
The home crowd was now firmly behind their team, and were almost given something to cheer for in the 58th minute when Ashish Rai cut one across the box for Hugo Boumous, whose first time shot was brilliantly tipped over by Lachenpa. Mumbai showed signs of nerves around this point, and were forced to try and slow down their game. It was then ATKMB's turn to be a relentless threat. Between the 64th and 68th minute, particularly, the team they took four corners, and forced three close-range saves.
Boumous was at the centre of most of these plays, without managing to find the net through Mumbai's backs-against-the-wall defending. By the time he fluffed a shot over the goal in the 78th minute, ATKMB had taken 26 shots without success. Only one more was to come as Mumbai held their nerve to ultimately take control and see off the game.
The win keeps Mumbai City in first place, and with Hyderabad FC dropping two points earlier in the week, stretches their lead to four points. They face NorthEast United FC at home on January 19, Thursday. ATK Mohun Bagan stay in 4th place, only a point ahead of Odisha FC in fifth. They travel to play Chennaiyin FC on January 21, Saturday.