The Islanders will lock horns against Kolkata giants East Bengal in the main round of the tournament.
Indian Arrows put up a brave fight until the very end of extra-time in the third qualifier of Hero Super Cup but went down 2-1 to Mumbai City FC’s late revival at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday. Rahul KP scored a landmark goal for the AIFF developmental side before Achille Emana’s 90th-minute penalty and Everton Santos’ extra-time winner took the match away from them.
Mumbai’s head coach Alexandre Guimaraes was present in the post-match press conference to address the media and started off by heaping praise on a talented Arrows side. “When we got the draw and knew that we would play Indian Arrows, we knew it would be very difficult because this is that kind of a game that everyone thinks you can win very easily,” he began. “But when you play against young boys with good organisation and skills like they have and try to beat them, it’s difficult. They tried their best, but we were very patient and that was the only way. It was very important for us to get through because our franchise needs to be in the final competition. Now it’s a matter of giving the players a few days off and start preparing for the next game against East Bengal.”
While the first half of regulation time belonged entirely to Mumbai, Arrows came all guns blazing in the second to almost take the match away from the Islanders. When questioned about why his team slacked in the second period, the Costa Rican admitted, “We knew that we will have our chance, but we will have to keep our cool. But if we don’t take our chances, it’s football and anything can happen. But I think, we kept our focus and kept going for the win. I think in the extra time, we were fortunate to be the better side.”
Luis Norton de Matos, the head coach of the Arrows was present from their end and began by sharing his views on the encounter. “To be fair, Mumbai started the game better,” he admitted. “And we knew it and we were ready to suffer in the initial stages. But later my boys played really well and fought for the game. I am proud of their performance. Like I said yesterday, Mumbai had more to lose than us. Throughout the I-League and now here in the Super Cup, we wanted to fight for the result and I am happy that my boys fought till the very end.”
The Portuguese further added, “Of course, we committed a few mistakes because we couldn’t control our emotions. But that’s normal. It’s a part of the process that the boys are going through. I can see that the boys are disappointed, but I see this as a learning process and I am happy the way they fought. At this age, it’s fantastic for them. Four months ago, I could not have hoped this team to play in this manner against an ISL team. But I congratulate the team for the performance. They have shown how good they can play at an average age of 17. That’s fantastic!”
Before signing off, Matos also stressed on why the ‘Arrows’ project by AIFF needs to be continued for the betterment of Indian football. “This project has to continue. This should not just be for the (FIFA) U-20 World Cup next year. It should be for Indian football in the next 10 years. I am very satisfied with the feedback I have got from the various coaches in India. They realise that the team here wants to play football and is a very competitive team. But now it depends on the people in power. We cannot stop this project. If in six months, from the U-17 World Cup to now, you have seen the players develop and make progress. Yes, they have made mistakes, but have learnt from it. One or two years more and you can have a fantastic generation of Indian players,” he concluded.