Pune: AFC Champions League debutants Nassaji Mazandaran made a winning start to their Group D campaign on Monday as goals from Ehsan Hosseini and Mohammadreza Azadi earned Mehdi Rahmati’s side a 2-0 victory over Mumbai City in Pune.
Hosseini’s cool close-range finish put the Iranian side in front in the 34th minute and Azadi made sure the Hazfi Cup holders took all three points back to the Islamic Republic of Iran with a strike from inside the six-yard box in the 62nd minute.
The hosts made a bright start and almost opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Jorge Pereyra Diaz slipped the ball through to Lallianzuala Chhangte but his effort from a tight angle bent harmlessly across the face of Rashid Mazaheri’s goal.
Chhangte carried a threat down the right for Mumbai while Bipin Singh Thounaojam was causing concern for the Iranians on the opposite flank, and Mazaheri had to be alert when Biipin sent his effort towards goal in the 26th minute.
Mumbai’s grip on the game was prised loose, however, with 11 minutes remaining in the half when Nassanji took the lead.
Hossein Zamehran picked up possession 20 yards from goal, the playmaker turning swiftly to play Ehsan Hosseini in with a defence-splitting pass, and he slotted calmly into the bottom corner to put the Iranians in front.
Bipin could have ensured Mumbai went into the break level a minute into first half injury time only to shoot off target after being found in space as Chhangte rolled the ball across the face of goal.
But the Iranians increased the pace in the second half and Rahmati’s side eventually added to their tally.
Vahid Mohammadzadeh gave Mumbai a scare 11 minutes into the second half when his cleverly flicked header clipped the top of the crossbar and, seven minutes later, Nassaji doubled their lead.
Substitute Farshid Esmaeili robbed Akash Mishra deep inside his penalty area and had the presence of mind to roll the ball into the six yard box, where Azadi was left with the simplest of finishes.
Vikram Partap shot across the face of goal and Chhangte glanced his header wide as Mumbai sought a late lifeline but Nassaji saw out nine minutes of additional time to taste victory in their first AFC Champions League appearance.