Fabulous Phurba, magnificent Mauricio, brave football: Takeaways from Mumbai City FC’s AFC Champions League campaign

Mumbai City FC gave a staggering account of themselves in their debut AFC Champions League campaign that saw them narrowly miss out on a spot in the next round but not before scripting history in the premier club competition in Asian football.

After the disappointment of missing out on the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals, Mumbai City FC picked themselves up for the continental competition that saw them being placed in a challenging group alongside Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia, UAE’s Al Jazira and Iraq’a Al-Jawiya Al-Quwa (Air Force Club).

But the Islanders surprised everyone by finishing second in the group behind Al Shabab the only team to qualify from the group. In process, they created a new record for an Indian club in the AFC Champions League of winning the most number of matches and also securing the most number of points beating FC Goa’s tally of three points.

Mumbai City FC became the first Indian club to win an AFC Champions League match and they went one better by repeating that feat in their final match against Al-Jawiya Al-Quwa as they finished their campaign with their second victory and with seven points on the board.

As the dust settles on a historic campaign, here’s a look at key takeaways from the campaign.

Brave Mumbai City FC stick to their guns

Mumbai City FC have built a reputation of being an attack-minded side in the Hero ISL that always takes the game to the opposition. In the AFC Champions League it was a much harder task for the Islanders to dominate matches as the way they did in the Hero ISL, but despite not enjoying majority of possession in any of their matches, Des Buckingham’s team showed an urge to get forward in attack at the slightest of opportunities.

Mumbai City FC enjoyed spells of ascendancy in almost all their matches in the AFC Champions League. Buckingham’s side did well to adapt their natural game against top quality opposition in the AFC Champions League but they stuck to their guns when they had the chance to attack and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Read: Finishing second in the AFC Champions League group is a huge achievement, says Mumbai City FC’s Des Buckingham

The rise of Phurba Lachenpa

While Mumbai City FC deserved praise for their attacking endeavours in the AFC Champions League, their standout player in the tournament was the man between the sticks. Lachenpa who started ahead of Mohammed Nawaz in five out of the six matches, stepped up to the plate and produced a string of heroic performances.

The best came against Al Jazira where his string of saves helped Mumbai City FC eke out a 0-0 draw against the UAE giants. He was equally spectacular in the two matches against Air Force Club that Mumbai City FC won.

Lachenpa’s performances is sure to give head coach Buckingham a decision to make ahead of the new Hero ISL season but it’s a headache he will be happy to have.

Mauricio steps up in Angulo’s absence

The injury to Igor Angulo was a bitter blow for Mumbai City FC in the AFC Champions League. However, Diego Mauricio filled in brilliantly and didn’t let Mumbai City FC rue the absence of their top scorer.

The Brazilian scored twice for Mumbai City FC in both victories against Air Force Club. He also led the line well for Mumbai City FC and brought his teammates into the game well.

With Angulo not getting any younger, Mauricio who has certainly warmed up to his new club will be an additional goal threat for the Islanders in the upcoming Hero ISL season. After a potent AFC Champions League campaign, Mauricio will be keen to do even better in the Hero ISL.

After a difficult start at the helm at Mumbai City FC, Buckingham seems to be slowly leaving his mark on the team. The AFC Champions League campaign is sure to serve as a big boost for the team for the next Hero ISL season.

Mumbai City FC may not have qualified for the semi-finals but the Islanders on the evidence of their Asian exploits will be a force to be reckoned with next season.

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