The defeat left the Islanders on fifth and in a must-win situation in their final game.

Mumbai City FC sputtered and gasped in their 1-3 loss against Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League 2021/22 on Wednesday. Des Buckingham’s side fell behind to Sahal Abdul Samad’s wonderful solo goal in the 19th minute and looked jittery ever since. Mourtada Fall fell prey to Alvaro Vazquez’s trickery next as he gave away a penalty. The Spaniard then stepped up to convert it. The break did not really change things for Mumbai as a howler from Mohammad Nawaz helped Vazquez to register a brace.

Substitute Diego Mauricio slotted home another spot-kick after Ruivah’s foul on him but it was too late to make any considerable impact. The Blasters held out for the rest of the match as it ended with them getting all three points.

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham was displeased as he articulated his thoughts in the post-match press conference:

Where this result leaves them in the battle for a top-four finish

The Islanders now face an uphill task of beating second-placed Hyderabad FC in their last remaining match. Anything less than a win against them will see them out of the playoffs race as their fate also banks on FC Goa’s victory against the Blasters. Des Buckingham elaborated what his side must do when asked about the same:

“Yeah, it takes it out of our hands. Coming into this game if we won the game, we’d qualify. And we also knew that if we got a point it takes us to the final one. So now it’s not in our hands. So we just need to now focus on beating Hyderabad FC and hope that Goa can do us a favor against Kerala Blasters,” said the manager.

On whether the late first-half goal made it harder to strategize a plan for the second half

Alvaro Vazquez earned and converted a penalty in stoppage time as Kerala Blasters went 2-0 up at halftime. Mumbai City already looked nervy in their approach and were already impacted by the denied penalty claim earlier on. The head coach explained where we thought things started going wrong for his team: 

“I think a major blow for us was the penalty that wasn’t given to us earlier in the half. I think you’d get that decision which we’ve had a lot of this year; where they haven’t been given. You go one up and that changes the total outcome of the game. That’s taking nothing away from Kerala Blasters. They won the game and won it well; 3-1. We tried having a go in the second half and we changed a few things. Again it was a mistake that cost us the third goal and sealed the result,” explained the 37-year-old coach.

Kerala Blasters completing a league double over Mumbai City

Kerala Blasters made it a double for this season as they almost replicated their scoreline for the last fixture. Mumbai City looked only a bit better as they finished the game with 11 players this time around but fell prey to individual mistakes once again. Des Buckingham said wouldn’t be worried about playing the Tuskers, just like any other team in the league:

“They are a good team. I’ve said this before. I think before the COVID break that was enforced on everybody came into play, they were the team that were flying and were topping the league at one point. I was starting to see them get back into that form and that’s what we recognized going into this game. If we get into it we need to beat Hyderabad before we worry about the top-four and hope that Goa pick up a result for us to get us there. But there’s no team in this league that we would be worried about playing ” asserted the manager.

Long chat with Kerala Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanovic before and after the game  

Des Buckingham looked to engage in conversation with his Kerala Blasters equivalent both at the beginning of the game and after it. When asked about the specifics, the coach replied that it was just a sign of respect:

“I think it was just mutual respect. When you’ve got an excellent coach and an excellent person in Ivan (Vukomanovic) who’s led this team and led them very well. If you get the opportunity to speak to those types of people, you know, we try and do that. It’s not just Ivan, but across the league. I’ve spent some time with Owen Coyle, and Manolo (Marquez). When you get the chance to speak to those people especially when you’re out of your bubble very few times (chuckles), it’s always nice,” concluded the head coach.

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