The manager also heaped praise on the crowd in Kochi.

Mehtab Singh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz netted once each to help Mumbai City take away all three points from an action-packed contest against Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Des Buckingham addressed a host of questions in the post-match press conference as he expressed happiness at his side’s performance. The mentor seemed extremely please throughout the interaction.

Here is what the Mumbai City mastermind said.

On first-half performance

“I think first-half was possibly the best football we played since I have been here, with and without the ball. I thought we played some really good, free-flowing attacking football. We deserved to go into the half-time with the 2-0 lead that we had. We expected Kerala to come at us the way they did in the second-half. You don’t come to Kochi and play in front of these wonderful fans which filled the stadium and made so much noise throughout, and, it’s not easy,” Buckingham gleefully reflected on his side’s performance in the opening half of the encounter.

He further praised their ability to put up such a performance in front of the vociferous crowd present in Kochi for the game. “I don’t think many teams will come here and take many points, let alone three,” the tactician quipped.

He added, “So, the pleasing thing is we leave here not just with a win, it’s two goals, good performance and the way we saw out the second-half despite the threats that they did pose; they had a lot of the ball in the second-half. How we defended gave us another clean sheet and it’s going to be very important to get both of those together as we progress in the season.”

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On whether they could have scored more goals

Mumbai City managed to get a hold over the proceedings for the better part of the game. They asserted their dominance for a significant period of time and hence Buckingham was probed whether he would have wanted his team to score more than the two goals that they did eventually.

“I am extremely happy to come here and take points. I spoke last week about taking only one when we should have taken three points. But to come here and take three points, yes, we want to push and get more. We want more goals and more clean sheets. But the most important thing is through the 90 minutes, we come away with the result. And if we can come away with the result and performance together, that’s the pleasing thing,” the head coach replied.

He further explained, “There are things we need to work on, to make sure that come next week when we play a very good ATK Mohun Bagan side, we are clinical and we don’t concede goals. But we have played four now, we have not been beaten and we have kept two clean sheets. So, it is starting to come.”

Crowd in Kochi

The Kerala Blasters’ fans turn up in massive numbers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi usually. Friday night was no different as the Islanders inflicted a defeat on the home side in front of a jam-packed stadium. Des Buckingham was particularly happy on seeing his side perform so well in front of so many spectators and said that it was a special feeling to be able to play in front of such a passionate audience.

“This is football. This is why I come to India. Want to experience different parts of India and certainly the football culture here is huge. To come here and to be able to play in front of a packed stadium and to hear the noise and the support that they certainly give to their home team, that’s what we want. As players and coaches, you want to put up a show for those fans,” the 37-year-old said.

He added, “You want to play in front of those fans. I think the more we can do that, I hope our fans turn up in big numbers next week and fill the stadium in what will be a big game for us. I have really enjoyed this evening. If we can fill up the stadium in this way for the rest of the season, it will improve the quality of football as well because the players will really enjoy it.”

On Jorge Pereyra Diaz

Diaz started a game after a break of two matches this time around and instantly made an impact with a sublime finish to notch Mumbai’s second goal of the game. Des Buckingham explained that the forward has put in a lot of efforts in the training ground and is a key part of the team’s plans going ahead in the season.

“He just got tired. He hasn’t had much game-time. He started the first game and then he has come on in the others (as a substitute). So, I think there were two reasons to start Diaz this evening. One, because he has worked extremely hard and has been patient. The injury that he had that took him out of the knockout stages of the Durand Cup and it was really disappointing both for him and for us. But he has worked extremely hard,” the former Melbourne City FC head coach opened up.

“We brought him here to lead out line because of the type of player he is. I also know that when we play with a recognized centre-forward, we can pose a different threat than we do if we play Greg there. We play a different style when we do that. But I also know that coming back to old club…good players play well against their old clubs. Forwards particularly, tend to score. So there was a bit of that there as well,” he remarked.

“Very pleased with the 65 minutes that he has played. That will help him for the next week…whether he starts or comes on. He is a very important component of how we want to play going forward,” Des Buckingham outlined his plans for Diaz for the rest of the campaign.

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