Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham acknowledged that NorthEast United set up in a way that made it difficult for the Islanders to break them down on Friday.

Mumbai City emerged victorious 3-1 in the encounter played at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Buckingham expressed that the Highlanders presented a difficult challenge in front of his team but was delighted with the way his players adopted different approaches to carve open the home side. Goals from Ahmed Jahouh, Bipin Singh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz helped Buckingham’s men secure three points from this away fixture.

Here are the excerpts from the tactician’s post-match press conference.

Thoughts on the game and the opposition

“I thought it was as expected, it was going to be a difficult game for us. Coming here, against a team that has played good football, and as I spoke before, maybe hasn’t gotten the results that they deserved from the games before, they will get a result at some point soon, I am sure. And we needed to make sure today that wasn’t us. There are always difficult games and the way that team set up made it extremely difficult for us to play the way we wanted,” Des Buckingham said as he appreciated the home side’s disciplined defensive approach.

The 37-year-old added, “They sat back and made the spaces compact. But what’s pleasing is the way we found out ways to break that down. There were maybe times last year when we wouldn’t have managed to do that. But this year, we had two or different ways we could get through that block. To come here and take three points and to go to the top of the table, it is very pleasing.”

Mumbai’s goal-scoring wingers

Mumbai’s wingers Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte have netted four and three goals respectively, in eight appearances each this season.

Either of the two players manages to step up and perform well in every passing game and that has added a new threatening element to the side’s frontline. Des Buckingham revealed that the coaching staff has spent a significant period developing these players as he mentioned that the wingers suit the style of football that Mumbai wishes to play as well.

“We have also got Vikram (Partap Singh) as well, who fits in there. We have got three (wingers) for two positions. Vikram maybe hasn’t played as much football as maybe we would have liked, or maybe he would have liked. But when you have Bipin and Chhangte playing as well as they are playing right now, it’s hugely pleasing to see from those two,” Buckingham said.  

He added, “We have spent 14 months working with these players about which I have talked before of how is it that we want to play. And we went and recruited Chhangte last January because he was a player and he certainly suited the way we wanted to play.”

“And yes, Bipin has been here for a long time. The time that he has spent developing his game and his understanding of what we want, for his role especially, not only getting on the ball but getting in the areas that we would want them to get more often, and then it’s up to them to finish off, which is so happy to see goals and goal-scoring contributions from both,” the tactician opened up.

Defensive concerns?

Prior to this game, NorthEast were tied with Bengaluru FC (2) in terms of the least goals scored by a team in the ISL this season. However, the Highlanders managed to equalize through a strike by Parthib Gogoi in the 17th minute. The goal came as a result of a misplaced pass by Mehtab Singh, someone who has been a standout player in Mumbai City’s defence this year. Des Buckingham admitted that the goal was a result of the team trying to play the ball out from the back but refused to budge from this approach basis one error.

“No, I thought we were defensively very solid throughout. We got caught trying to play out. But we have got a way that we play and that won’t change. We just need to be smart. We have young players in our backline and we have to keep encouraging them to play and to develop and we will continue to support them in that because that’s the only way that they will get better. It’s a learning for them and it’s a learning for us,” the head coach remarked.

He added, “Because, we need to recognize times when to do it and obviously times when not to do it. But we have a very positive and supportive environment and the way we want to do things. To develop players and to develop them properly, we will stick through to what we do. Now, it’s about making sure that they are learning from that and we don’t let that happen again.”   

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