Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham expressed his delight with his team's performance in their hard-fought 2-1 victory against Kerala Blasters FC, despite facing a demanding travel schedule. The Islanders secured their first home win of the 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) season, extending their unbeaten streak in the league.

Mumbai City FC broke the deadlock in injury time of the first half when Jorge Diaz tapped in a goal. Kerala Blasters FC managed to level the score in the second half, but Lalengmawia Ralte's well-placed shot, following a miscued clearance, proved to be the winning goal.

Leading up to their home game against the Blasters, Mumbai City FC had played three consecutive matches on the road in both the ISL and the AFC Champions League. This included a gruelling 19-hour-odd trip to Uzbekistan to face Navbahor, which Buckingham revealed added to the team's exhaustion. 

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Buckingham commended his players for their hard work and adaptability.

“For the players to do what they have just done and work as hard as they have, I'm extremely pleased with it (the performance). We have a way which we want to play, which is attractive and attacking football. But sometimes, you don't get to do that. We came up against a very good Kerala Blasters FC side with very good players and they made it very tough. Other teams will (too), and we know this. We need to find different ways to win. And that fight, that aggression and determination especially on the back of what has been a long and tiring two-and-a-half weeks, was very good to see,” Buckingham said in the post-match press conference.

Buckingham also highlighted the impressive performance of Lalengmawia Ralte, who opened his scoring account for the season. The Mizoram-born midfielder had been deployed in a more advanced role compared to the previous season and had excelled in this new position. Buckingham praised Ralte's development, saying, “I can't speak highly enough of Apuia. He’s a young player, he’s 22. This is my third season with him. When I signed, he was at 6, a defensive midfield player who had a breakout season with NorthEast United FC (before he joined Mumbai City FC),” Buckingham said. 

He added: He is so open minded to try new things and learn. His attitude is as good as it can and it should be for a professional footballer at this club. He tries to improve his game everyday, both on and off the field. Because of that, he gets himself more minutes on the field. That’s why he is playing as many minutes as he is and has since I've been here and he’s starting to reap the benefits of that. He scored three or four goals last season and got himself an assist. He’s got his targets this year to try and improve that. But the beauty of that is if he can develop his game further forwards, we know he can play in a deep-lying role and that will only help enhance that role when he goes back to playing that. Because he’ll be able to understand and see those moments further forwards that will develop his game going forward.”