Iain Hume’s first-half strike decided the three points in a match which could have gone either way.
Mumbai City FC suffered a 1 – 0 defeat at the hands of Kerala Blasters FC in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday. This was the Islanders’ fourth loss of the season and speaking to the media during the post-match presser was their head coach, Alexandre Guimaraes.
The Costa Rican explained what went against them in defeat after the freekick in the build-up to Kerala’s goal. “I don’t know why they allowed play when the ball was five meters away and then let it go,” Guimaraes said. “And of course, then we tried to recover which is not easy because we are playing our game and they are playing their game. We tried to impose our game. When we saw that goal, we tried different ways to get a draw, but we could not. So, now we have to just think ahead to receive Bengaluru here (in Mumbai). Because of the results that are going on, everybody has a chance.”
Guimaraes further added that the loss was perhaps a bit hard on his team. “They (Kerala) did not have the chance to hurt us with their kind of game,” he stated. “And they got a situation, and from the beginning, we tried to impose the game that we have been playing lately. Again, in the second half, they made a substitution to try a different kind of approach. But I think we handled it also and we also took some risks to draw the game. There were some situations where we knocked at the door, but could not work it (out).”
The 58-year-old is, however, not thinking about the past, and focusing instead on the game ahead. “We talked about our home games being important and we should have got a point,” Guimaraes said. “Next, we have a clash against Bengaluru on Thursday. It is an important match as they lost also. You cannot predict anything. The league won’t be defined till the last game.”
James spoke of his delight with the win, while also admitting the encounter was a tough one. “Of course, winning is a nice habit to get in,” he stated. “It was a tough game. Obviously, there were concerns about a number of players going down for one reason or the other. But today was fantastic, players going down, getting back up, Iain Hume back on the scoresheet which delighted the majority of the fans. So, I’m a very happy coach. Three games are over and two games more to go in quick succession. Hope it won’t be too bad.”
The Englishman maintained that they were aiming for a top-four finish. “That’s what we are going for: finishing in the top four,” James said. “ATK won and we had to maintain that performance. They have a game in hand, so we cannot go back to that position again. We can only do what we can do in every single match.”
He was quick to praise the passionate Kerala fans who came out in large numbers to support the visitors on the night. “The fans have been superb,” the 47-year-old said. “There is a banner that says we make each ground our home, and today was like a home game and it helps. When you’ve got fans supporting you, the players go down and they get back up and fight again. It was tough, and the fans were right behind us.”
The former England international also explained why Dimitar Berbatov did not play the game. “The situation with Berbatov was that you do not want to play every player in every game,” James revealed. “The team is going to rotate, that is the nature of the league. You have quite a lot of games in quick succession. Berbatov has done exactly what I’ve asked from him in the games he has played for me. When he has not played, someone has come in and done exactly the same. As a coach, it’s hard for me to pick a team because every time in training I see top efforts. So, I can’t ask for anything more. So Berbatov, like the other guys who were not involved today, will have to fight for his place in the side.”