The Islanders will seek to extend their winning start against Hyderabad FC on November 27.

Mumbai City FC began their ISL title defence with a solid 3-0 win against FC Goa. The defending champions will aim to go one step further when they meet Hyderabad FC on Sunday. Hyderabad, however, will hope to quickly regroup after a disheartening 1-0 loss to the Marina Machans. Despite the defeat, the Nizams had plenty of positives to take from the game. Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham and defender Rahul Bheke both expressed intentions to keep getting better.

“Yes, we watched their game. I was very surprised that the scoreline at half-time was where it was at 0-0. Hyderabad FC played extremely well, very quick, creating a lot of chances,” said Buckingham. (They) Didn’t come out with the result that they wanted and maybe what the first half (performance) deserved. So, we’re very aware of their strengths. They have stayed together and the coach has got them very well organized and playing very good standard of football.

“We’ve played against them in pre-season already, so (we) had a taste of that. We’re ready for what we need to be ready for. However, the focus is on us and I’m not so much worried about (them). The focus is on what we want to do and how we want to do,” he added.

Bheke also showed his respect towards the opponents. “Obviously, we know that they are a good team, but it’s important that we focus on our way of play. We know they have a good team, they have good players, but it’s important that we do well tomorrow. We will be doing the same things we did in our first game. “It’s important that we get the victory tomorrow.”

On playing beside Mourtada Fall in centre-back partnership

Rahul Bheke impressed at the heart of Mumbai City’s defence alongside Mourtada Fall, one of the best defenders to grace the ISL. He was full of praise for his captain and spoke highly of him. 

“It was a good experience and my first game. He’s always there to help me on and off the pitch, as this is the first time I’m playing with him. So, throughout the pre-season, he helped me as a defender. He has shared his experience and he’s always there to help each and every one. He’s one of the leaders in our team, so it was a great experience,” said Bheke. 

Watch: Des Buckingham and Rahul Bheke speak ahead of Hyderabad FC match

On role as senior player & mentor

Bheke is one of the senior Indian players in Mumbai City’s Indian contingent. He feels it his duty to guide the youngsters like Gurkirat Singh and Lalengmawia.

“Yes, I have played in the ISL for the last seven years and it’s important that I share my experience with my teammates, especially with the youngsters. So, that they improve, they do good for the team and help the team,” he acknowledged.

Mood in camp ahead of Hyderabad FC match

Mumbai City FC brushed aside FC Goa in their opening fixture of ISL 2021-22 with goals from debutants Igor Angulo (2) and Ygor Catatau, while also keeping a clean-sheet. Coach Des Buckingham was a figure of excitement and composure as he stressed how they are in a good mood, but ready to go for another win.

“Anywhere around the world, everybody wants to play well, ideally play well and win that first game. So, the feeling when we got back to the camp was one of happiness and excitement, as we were greeted by the hotel staff here as well, fantastically well. That feeling is continued, but it’s been more about trying to get the players recovered and fresh,” said Buckingham. “We do have a lot of games coming up in a short space of time. However, the mood is great at the moment. It’s important that the mood is one of focus, as we get ready for a very good Hyderabad FC,” he commented.

“The team’s morale is high because we got a win in the first game. It was our first game and the team is doing good in the camp here. Everyone is happy, positive and the atmosphere in the team and dressing room is good. Surely, we will go with a positive mindset for tomorrow’s game and (we’re) looking forward to the win tomorrow,” Bheke chipped in.

On Igor Angulo leading attack

Igor Angulo announced himself in style as a Mumbai City player with two goals inside three minutes against FC Goa. Buckingham was full of praise for the seasoned Spanish striker. He also elaborated on Angulo’s importance and role in the squad.

“With the two goals that he scored, especially the second was a fantastic (strike). That’s a proper finish. It doesn’t take too much for him to get a sight at goal, to try and find a shot or back of the net. That’s something that as a coach, you look out for those types of players in the team. So, to have someone like Igor here and his finishing ability is very good,” Buckingham observed.

“Well, one thing I must stress is the work-rate of the team out of possession. It was a very key part to allow not just Igor but the others, when we did win the ball to be in good positions to be on the counter or to get goalscoring moments. It was the work-rate of every single player that was fantastic. That’s what we’re going to have to do again tomorrow night,” he elaborated.   

On effect of fixture list on playing style

Mumbai have a packed fixture list, with Hyderabad FC’s visit being followed up by matches against ATK Mohun Bagan on December 1, Bengaluru FC on December 4 and Jamshedpur FC on December 9. The 36-year-old explained his approach towards recovery, a key part of retaining player fitness, especially given his intense brand of football.

“We have to manage our squad and try and manage it as best as we can. So, that’s my job to try and do, address the players’ roles to make sure that they can keep themselves fresh and ready to play.

“However, what is important is that when they do get these opportunities, we trust them to have them. We certainly trust the players we have in this group. But, it’s upto the players to go on and show people what they’re capable of doing. So, the management, players and the squad will be ready to take their opportunity,” Des Buckingham reassured.

On gameplan and approach

Mumbai pressed high from the start against FC Goa, breathing down their necks almost every half a second and leaving no room for error or inexperience, eventually leading to a 3-0 victory. Coach Des Buckingham stated how every team requires a different plan and they prepare accordingly.

“We have a plan for every team that we play. We’ve also got a style of football that we try to play and when I say the style of play, it’s not just when we have possession of the ball. It’s very important again, when we haven’t got the ball that we do the things that we want. But, we also need to be aware that every team we play will have their different threats.

“So, how we go about into making that start out of possession will be different for every team. That was the plan against Goa and it worked in patches. There were areas we really need to tidy up in and it’ll be important whether it’s the Hyderabad game or ones after that against ATK Mohun Bagan or so on,” he stated.

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