4 things we learned from Mumbai City FC's AFC Champions League campaign

Mumbai City FC players celebrate their win against Iraq's Air Force Club in the AFC Champions League (Image Courtesy: Mumbai City FC Instagram)
Mumbai City FC players celebrate their win against Iraq's Air Force Club in the AFC Champions League (Image Courtesy: Mumbai City FC Instagram)

Mumbai City FC made their debut in the AFC Champions League after winning the double in the 2020-21 season under Sergio Lobera. However, their ISL 2021-22 campaign did not go as expected under Des Buckingham.

But the Islanders have made a decent recovery in their Asian debut, finishing second in Group B behind Al-Shabab FC with seven points from six games. The Islanders have managed to create history by winning twice against Iraq's Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Air Force Club).

There were certain factors that worked for Des Buckingham's side, while others that went against them. The side have also made some revelations during their stint in the AFC Champions League.

On that note, let's take a look at the four things we learned from the Islanders' debut in Asia.

#4 Bipin Singh and Vikram Pratap Singh have a long way to go

Bipin Singh and Vikram Pratap Singh were the Islanders' two pillars in their attacking department during ISL 2021-22. Vikram had difficulty finding a spot under Sergio Lobera but had enough in his tank to impress the Spaniard's successor.

Both wingers have a unique burst of pace that creates instability in the opposition's defense. But the AFC Champions League seems to have exposed their weaker sides. The two wingers found it very difficult to get past defenders in one-on-one situations. Their pace was ineffective in most cases as was their body strength.

#2 Ahmed Jahouh's effectiveness at both ends for Mumbai City FC

Ahmed Jahouh has been one of the pivotal characters for Mumbai City FC over the last two seasons. The deep-lying playmaker has been a threat with the ball, opening up spaces beyond the opposition's defensive lines.

Against Al-Shabab FC, the Moroccan midfielder slotted in between the two central defenders to outnumber the opposition's forwards and aid in the quick build-up during transitions.

His ability to find space pockets and dictate the game came in handy for Des Buckingham's side on more than one occasion. Jahouh also turned provider for Rahul Bheke's winner against the Air Force Club in their first-leg meeting against the Islanders.

On one occasion, Jahouh was also deployed as an attacking midfielder and the Mumbai City FC player did justice to his role.

#2 Phurba Lachenpa getting the deserved spotlight

Phurba was the second-choice goalkeeper for Mumbai City FC, initially for Sergio Lobera and then for Des Buckingham. However, the Islanders' custodian made his mark in their recently concluded Asian campaign, featuring in almost all the games.

The former Real Kashmir FC custodian showcased his abilities under the crossbar and was terrific as a shot-stopper. Although his keeping skills are yet to match those of his colleagues, Lachenpa did justice to his selection.

#1 Mumbai City FC need to add more focus on variations

One of the things that worked against Des Buckingham's side was their inability to use variations against different opponents. As a result, they were caught in the same traps laid out by their opponents.

The side initially tried to use pace as an option and that backfired when the wingers failed to outpace the opposition's full-backs during one-on-one situations.

Their play was mostly dependent on Ahmed Jahouh and Apuia trying to progress the ball through the thirds. But after Mumbai City FC's double-pivot was closed down, the team failed to produce any variations in attack.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat