The Islanders will take a vacation till February 24th to heal.
Despite his team’s second consecutive loss heading into the playoffs on Sunday, Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham remained upbeat. East Bengal defeated the Islanders 1-0 in the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA), thanks to a goal by Naorem Mahesh Singh in the 52nd minute. The host team had a fairly youthful team, with players such as Halen Nongtdu, Hardik Bhatt, Ayush Chhikhara, Mohammed Asif, and Gyamur Nikum earning crucial playing time. Here are some highlights from Buckingham’s post-game news conference.
The game’s objectives
With their hopes of finishing the season unblemished dashed by Bengaluru, Mumbai had nothing to play for on Sunday. Buckingham looked unaffected by the setback and instead enthused about the promise that his youthful talents displayed during the game, echoing that mental process.
“Tonight we used this as an opportunity to look at a lot of players. I am delighted with the young players who made their debuts,”
Des Buckingham said.
“We used this as a chance to test them and see what they could do, and I think they have passed the flying colours in terms of how they’ve adapted and shown what they can do. I was also making sure that we look after our squad and arrive at the semi-finals with everybody available.”
The 37-year-old also explained that the team required their squad players to be in good touch given that he might have to tap upon the plethora of resources in his squad at any point during the playoffs.
“We used tonight for a different purpose; knew we won the league and we’re going to finish at least four points clear. We need to test and try things because we may need them in the semi-finals,”
Similarities to East Bengal’s Durand Cup loss?
Sunday’s setback brought back memories of Mumbai City’s loss to East Bengal in September, when Stephen Constantine’s side defeated the Islanders 4-3 in a dramatic goal-fest in the Durand Cup. In fact, the Red & Golds, together with Bengaluru FC, have been the only two teams to defeat Mumbai City this season, both in the Durand Cup and the Indian Super League (ISL).
Des Buckingham was questioned on whether the Kolkata-based club’s form of play posed a distinct challenge to Mumbai. The head coach was dismissive of such proposals, instead emphasizing the oddity of Mumbai’s lack of frontline players due to substantially similar factors in both cases.
Stephen Constantine discusses the forthcoming season’s intentions
“I think the two times we played them in very similar circumstances. When we played in the Durand Cup, we left a lot of players because they were on bookings and that could have carried through to the knockout stages. We played (Gursimrat) Gill and Vinit (Rai) at centre-back in that game. The same was tonight, we didn’t want to risk anyone who was on yellow cards and didn’t want to risk anyone with a slight knock,”
the strategist explained.
Buckingham also stated that the players would have a week off from Monday to Friday this week. They will report back on Saturday, with the aim that they would utilize the week to heal fully and then prepare for their semi-final match in Mumbai on March 7.
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