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AFC Champions League

Set out to create history, affirms Des Buckingham after victory in ACL

Published at :April 12, 2022 at 8:09 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Riddhiman Sarkar


The Islanders beat Iraq's Air Force Club 2-1 to script a fairytale comeback.

Mumbai City scripted their name in the history books with a solid 2-1 win over an experienced Air Force Club of Iraq in their AFC Champions League group stage meeting on Monday. Des Buckingham was keen to get that first win that would make them the only Indian club to ever win a game in this prestigious competition. Apart from that, the Islanders showed tremendous strength of character to rally back into the game after a lucky Hammadi Ahmed strike gave the Air Force Club a 1-0 lead.

Diego Mauricio resumed his purple patch of form with a sweetly struck spot-kick after he was brought down by Ali Kazem in the box. Rahul Bheke then turned hero, as he headed home Ahmed Jahouh’s sublime corner and gave Mumbai City the lead in the 75th minute. The remaining 15 minutes saw some nervy play, as the Indian side kept whacking the ball away from their box. But, their efforts eventually bore fruit as they ended the game with all three points in their bag.     

Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham was absolutely delighted with his team’s performance as he revealed in the post-match press conference:

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Opinion on match

The Islanders played a much more disciplined and mature game than the one against Al-Shabab, as they went toe-to-toe with the Air Force Club. Despite going behind, they scored twice in quick succession to give themselves a record-breaking three points. Des Buckingham was grateful for the team’s result, as he recognized its importance as a milestone in Indian football.

“I think that result is a huge result. Not just for our club Mumbai because it’s the first time we’ve been at this level. But, it’s a historic moment for Indian Football and the country. We’re the first team to come and pick up a result with a win at this level.

"So, it’s something that as a staff group and as a playing group we’ve been striving to try and achieve. Now, we’ve got that, but it’s important now that we re-focus,” summarized the manager.

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Emotions in dressing room after important victory 

Mumbai City became the first-ever Indian club to win a game in the AFC Champions League with their victory. The Islanders’ English head coach gave an insight into a bustling dressing room that is high on confidence and excitement.

“Yes, there’s a range of emotions. We knew, coming into this tournament, how tough it was going to be. The league we come from is only seven seasons old. It’s only the second time that a club from India has come into this level of competition. We compete against very well-resourced and experienced teams. So, the emotions both from the staff group and the playing group is one of immense pride."

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Opposition’s weakness as a result of fasting for Ramadan 

Hakeem Shaker, the coach of the Air Force club of Iraq, claimed that there was a lack of fitness in his squad. He attributed the same to the fact that his players had to break their fast shortly before the match in keeping with the rituals of Ramadan. Des Buckingham explained whether his side could notice any significant changes as a result.

“I can’t speak on behalf of their club. We have several players, almost in double figures, that were also fasting whilst they were here. At least six of them have taken to the field to start this evening. It’s a fact that when we came to the tournament, we knew what we were coming to. We’ve got to be smart about how those players prepare for these games, especially with short turnarounds, ” asserted the manager.

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On changing foreigner quota & tactics

Des Buckingham made quite a few changes to the starting lineup, as he shuffled his pack against the Air Force Club of Iraq. The inclusion of Diego Mauricio in place of fellow Brazilian Cassio Gabriel was probably the most noticeable one, as the big striker helped restore the physical presence they needed upfront.

The coach shared his thoughts on how he went about the same, how the playing group reacted to it and how big of a task it was trying to counter the Iraqi club.

“Yes, (the) Air Force (Club) are a wonderful team. They have been so consistent for 4-5 seasons in what we’ve gone back and watched. The way they’ve challenged in their own league at this level consistently is amazing. We’ve got a capable squad. I said we had to build our momentum and in the last game, we lacked that cutting edge.

"By bringing Diego in this evening, he certainly gave us that option down the middle. Then the change at the back, Amey (Ranawade) got into right-back. Whoever we brought on, they’ve done so well and I'm proud of them,” responded the manager.

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