Mumbai City FC head coach, Des Buckingham was proud of his team despite their defeat against Al Hilal SFC in the AFC Champions League at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Monday. 

Mumbai City FC started the game strongly, creating several promising chances in the first half and holding the scoreline at 0-0 despite strong opposition. However, their fortunes took a turn in the second half when Mehtab Singh received a second booking, reducing them to 10 men. Al Hilal capitalised on the numerical advantage and dominated the second half, securing goals through Michael and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Al Hilal is renowned for their success in the AFC Champions League, having won the competition a record four times. They currently lead the Saudi Pro League and remain unbeaten with 32 points from 12 games. Buckingham considered the quality of Mumbai City FC's performance against a side like Al Hilal to be a significant positive for his team and Indian football as a whole. 

"I am extremely happy with what I just watched. We played the best team in Asia. Up until the send off (for Mehtab Singh), I thought we put on a very good show of what Indian football can do on that stage," he said in the post-match press conference.

Buckingham also acknowledged the tremendous effort put in by his players, despite being down to ten men, saying, "It was a lot of hard work that I have seen from my players. Our ten men had a lot of ground to cover."

This marked the fourth consecutive defeat in the AFC Champions League campaign for Mumbai City FC, who previously faced Al Hilal in October in Riyadh and suffered a 6-0 loss. Buckingham emphasised that the experiences gained from their previous encounter in Riyadh helped his team understand the challenge they faced. 

"When you come to this level of competition...this is the first time that we played against this quality of team. The experiences we gained from Riyadh, the team knew what to expect when we arrived here. That helps them prepare both mentally and physically," he explained.

In both encounters with Al Hilal, Mumbai City FC defended well, with the team implementing a different plan for the recent game. Buckingham commended the tactical adjustments, saying, "We had a different plan in this one than the match in Riyadh. I thought we were really good in Riyadh for 65 minutes before their first goal. What became evident after that was how quickly they can exploit spaces in wide areas, so we tweaked that tactical plan to deal with that out of possession, and I thought it was extremely well executed by the players all the way through." 

The DY Patil Stadium saw an impressive attendance of 30,023 spectators, creating a memorable atmosphere with passionate fans.

 Buckingham considered this attendance a positive sign for his Mumbai City FC team and hoped for a similar turnout for their games in the Indian Super League at the Mumbai Football Arena. 

"We've just had over 30,000 people come from across India to watch that game. If we can turn some of that attendance now to our games at the MFA (Mumbai Football Arena), that's very powerful because that atmosphere was wonderful," he said. 

Despite the disappointing result, Buckingham expressed pride in the fans, saying, "Yes, it was a disappointing result, but I think the 30,000 people that came to support us can be proud of what they have seen."