If we want to achieve things, we can’t keep conceding: Mumbai City FC’s Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham was in a positive mood after a morale-boosting 6-2 win over Chennaiyin FC in their last match as the Islanders prepare to host Bengaluru FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 on Thursday.

The Islanders are the top goalscorers in the Hero ISL this season with 16 goals to their name and face a Bengaluru FC side that have netted just twice all season.

But Buckingham has called for improvement from his side especially while defending set-pieces having conceded six out of the total eight goals that they have let in on dead-ball situations.

Buckingham and captain Rahul Bheke addressed the pre-match press conference ahead of the Bengaluru FC match at home.

Here are the excerpts:

How convincing was the victory against Chennaiyin FC and was that as perfect a performance as you'd want from this team?

Buckingham: We were happy at the end of the game certainly with the second half and the impact that we had. But if we want to achieve things this year, we can't give away the goals that we did. I thought Chennaiyin FC started better than we did. In the previous two matches, I thought we started very well. But Chennaiyin FC started better and it took us time to get into the game. But as soon as we got back into the game, I was very happy with how we played and approached things.

It's good to know that we have the capability to score those goals. But we have a lot of work to do if we want to be successful and I hope we do that so we come away with more good results in the next couple of games.

You had six different goalscorers and there were some players who hadn't played a lot but still came in and contributed. How pleasing is that for a coach?

Buckingham: Last year when we lost a couple of key players, we weren't able to sustain the momentum that we had. We have been recruiting players in that role since we signed Vinit Rai and Lalianzuala Chhangte early in the year in January. Apart from that, we are pretty much an unchanged squad and although we had some changes in the foreign department that have only been four players. The good thing is that we have got them all fit and there is competition across each position in our team. When we are playing, we are playing well. of course, it's up to the players to fight for the starting spots but what's been pleasing is that when players who haven't been starting games as much as they have wanted to, they have come and had a good impact. This is so important not just in games that have gone by, but also in games that are to come. We are not a team of individuals and we need everyone who is in our squad.

You faced Bengaluru FC in the Durand Cup final but a lot has changed since then, Bengaluru FC have struggled but Mumbai City FC have been flying. So, how do you think you will approach this match?

Buckingham: The final was two months ago and a lot has changed. I don't want to speak too much about Bengaluru FC. We used the Durand Cup to be as successful as we can and we reached the final in our first attempt in that competition. We were unfortunate not to come away from the final with the trophy.

We used it as an opportunity to prepare for the Hero ISL season. The main focus was to continue from where we left off in the AFC Champions League and start well. Then it was about getting better every round. The way we have played in the last six games, I think we have done that.

We are a different team than the final but so are they and that just comes with the time that we have been able to spend together. We have been able to try a few different things with different personnel and all these ingredients are important in terms of picking up more good results.

Mumbai City FC have scored 16 goals compared to Bengaluru FC’s two goals. What happens when teams with such contrasting records go against each other?

Buckingham: You don't get any more points for winning 4-0 or 6-0 than when you are winning 1-0. We just have to look at Hyderabad FC who have picked up 1-0 wins in their last four games, you still get three points at the end of it.

What's pleasing for me is that we have played six, and we have kept two clean sheets. We conceded three against Hyderabad FC but we have been a lot stronger defensively than before. We also have got multiple goalscorers and multiple threats whereas last year we had Igor Angulo who was very good for us but when he wasn't scoring, we struggled in certain times and certain moments to have contributions from elsewhere. The good point is we had six different goalscorers in the last match.

You have kept just two clean sheets in the last four games, do we expect any changes defensively?

Buckingham: Our approach doesn't change too often. We have a way that we want to playing with the ball and how we want to play without the ball. We have to be wary of other teams like Bengaluru FC have Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri. But they also have other players that can cause problems. If anyone has watched the six games they have played already and although they haven't had the results that they would have wanted, they have created chances to score more goals than they have and maybe been unfortunate to not come away with more results because of that. We are aware of that but in terms of our approach, we won't change what we do. We will make slight tweaks to try and get the most out of our players but we have a way of doing things and we stick to that.

What stood out for you in the win against Chennaiyin FC?

Buckingham: Players sticking to what we wanted to achieve. Very often when you have a game plan and a way you want to play, when things don't quite go your way, then players either don't believe in what we are doing or some players who aren't as professional can start to do what they want.

As soon as one or two players start doing that when things don't go right, the whole thing falls down. So the pleasing thing was that the players stuck to the task and put us in a strong position at half-time when we made it 2-2. Also, it is always nice when your two changes come and score, But the most important thing was the team sticking to what we work on a daily basis.

It's our job as a coach to make the right changes at the right time and it was also pleasing to see all three players who came on, score a goal.

You have been facing a lot of defensive frailties in the second phase of the set-piece. How do you deal with that?

Buckingham: We need to focus on that. Out of the eight goals that we have conceded, six have been from set pieces. It's an area of concern. If you look at last year, it wasn't the case and teams may start to take advantage of that, so if we can make sure we spend the time that we want to to get that right, we know we are a difficult side to create chances against. The stats will show you that.

But we need to work on these small details and when the situation arises, we need to make sure we do our jobs. You can't always come back from behind and one goal might be decisive in the result.

Here are the excerpts from Rahul Bheke’s press conference:

You have a lot more responsibility on your shoulders this season with not just the captain's armband in most games, but also dealing with new faces in the backline. How have you coped with it?

Bheke: It is very important for me that I help my team by playing in different positions, by attacking and defending in tandem or be it helping new players in the team like Rostyn Griffiths and Sanjiv Stalin. I think it's important that we gel very well and we help the team keep clean sheets. That's our main target as defenders.

You will be facing your former team in front of your own fans for the first time. What are your emotions ahead of the match?

Bheke: I am looking forward to this game. Last year I played against them but it was in a neutral venue but now it will be in front of our home crowd. Keeping emotions aside, it's important that I focus on the match. It's important for us to keep getting points because it's a long league and we have another 13 matches. Our target is to be top of the league, so keeping those emotions side, it's important we focus on the game and get those three points.

How pleasing was it for you to see the team come back and get that win against Chennaiyin FC?

Bheke: It is good to see the team doing well and at the same time make that comeback. When I thought about the game, it was important that we get the first goal in the first half. I think that was a major turning point in the match. I was really happy to see players coming off the bench scoring, so that is a good sign and I am really proud of that.

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