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Des Buckingham sets focus on AFC Champions League after ISL exit

Published at :March 6, 2022 at 8:54 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Riddhiman Sarkar

The Islanders failed to qualify for the playoffs and settled for a fifth-place finish.

Mumbai City FC’s playoff hopes completely sunk with their 2-0 loss to Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021/22 on Saturday. Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham had mixed opinions about his team’s performance, as he conveyed in the post-match press conference.

Needing a win to keep their playoff hopes afloat, the Islanders fell behind to Rohit Danu's goal in the 14th minute. Joel Chianese then doubled the lead in the 41st minute. Mumbai City pulled one back through Mourtada Fall's header deep into the second half but it wasn't enough. As the defending champions succumbed to their seventh defeat of the season, Kerala Blasters were assured of a playoffs spot for the first time in four seasons.

Here are the excerpts from Des Buckingham's press conference.

Whether hoped for comeback after Mourtada Fall’s goal

The Islanders briefly the arrears to one goal, as Mourtada Fall headed home Cassinho’s free-kick. However, they could not build on that and failed to rescue even a point, This result completely rules them out of the playoffs. Des Buckingham rued the fact that the goals his side conceded were sloppy and said that he did initially hope for a comeback.

“You always have hope of a comeback if you’re behind. So, yes I did. We gave away two sloppy goals. You know, the first from a set-piece and the second one, just a long ball down the field which we should deal with. So, we can’t give away those types of goals. We played some good build-up football from the back. But, we just need to take a little bit more care in the final third. To make sure that when we do get the opportunities, we take them,” said the manager.

Fielding heavily altered starting XI

Mumbai City had quite a few absentees for the match against Hyderabad FC, as Ahmed Jahouh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Rahul Bheke all missed out. Buckingham also allowed Mohammad Nawaz some much-needed rest, as Phurba Lachenpa started in goal ahead of him. He was asked whether these changes were made keeping in mind the fast-approaching  AFC Champions League fixtures?

“Yes, we had to make changes because we had two players suspended in Chhangte and Rahul Bheke. So, that opened up opportunities for others. Then we felt that after the last couple of games, we could try a couple of different things and we’ve done that this evening. And of course, we’ve got a squad of 27 players. We assess the players on a daily basis of training and we’ll continue to do that. Those that perform, they get their opportunity on the stage,” explained the 37-year-old coach.

If the seven-match winless run affected their semi-final chances

The Mumbai City head coach has continually stressed the fact that the current position of the team does not matter as much as the eventual finish does. On that note, he was asked whether the Islanders’ seven-match winless streak impacted their playoffs chances?

“Yes, we’ll do a review at the end of the season. You know, the season’s only finished for us in terms of the league. We’ve still got Champions League, so we’ll have some time off now; a couple of days before we regroup and come back together to go and challenge in what’s going to be a very tough group in Riyadh, for the Champions League. But, one we need to get ready for and one we will be ready for, ” asserted the manager.

How things are looking for Mumbai City for next couple of weeks 

Des Buckingham will have another challenging task, as he will be overseeing Mumbai City’s progress in the prestigious AFC Champions League. When asked about the specifics, the coach gave a detailed insight into how the next few weeks are going to look for the Islanders.

“Yes, so all the foreigners will be available. No change of rule for the sheets, so all the players, foreign and Asian, will be out to travel. We still won’t be able to put them all out on the field, but they will travel as part of the squad. On what the next couple of weeks would look like; the players will now have some time off. Around a week or just under a week and then everyone will come back together. Then we’ll have two and a half to three weeks of a camp before we head over to Saudi,” concluded the head coach.

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