The Des Buckingham coached Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC face up to the challenge of local favourites Mohammedan Sporting in the first semi-final of the Durand Cup at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.
On paper, the Islanders have the slight edge going into the big game on Wednesday, given the sheer menacing nature of their attacking game and the quality and experience of the overall squad. However, the Islanders have scored 18 times in the tournament so far – the highest among all 20 teams – and the Black & White brigade have been no slouch having scored a dozen times themselves.
They have looked very well organised and settled under Russian coach Andrey Chernyshov, letting in just two in their campaign to the Islanders 10. MDSP also gave fellow semi-finalists Bengaluru FC a run for their money in a 1-1 draw and have played a pleasing brand of football.
Greg Stewart and Lallianzuala Chhangte have been the leading lights of the MCFC campaign scoring 13-times between them- the latter currently the tournament highest scorer with seven goals to his name. With the addition of experienced Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall and ace distributor Rowlin Borges, the Islanders now also look even more balanced and potent.
Little wonder then that Des Buckingham was a picture of calm and confidence in the pre-match presser when he said, “We will try to win within 90 minutes.” He was however respectful of his opponents adding, “Mohammedan are a good side. Look at the way they are playing. They will be playing on their home ground. I respect all the players of Mohammedan. Joseph is a good player, even Dauda. The way both the teams play I hope it’s going be an interesting game tomorrow. Looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”
Buckingham was referring to MDSP’s own recent lethal addition to the side, Nigerian striker Abiola Dauda, who struck twice in his debut for the Black & Whites, in the quarter-finals against the Kerala Blasters. With the new found assist powers of Trinidadian Marcus Joseph, the Mumbai defence will have a task on its hand and that is where Buckingham will believe that Fall can play a big role. Coach Chernyshov was also aware of the enormity of the task at hand.
He said at the pre-match presser, “Mumbai is a strong team. But we have prepared ourselves. If we can play in our own style and play good football then we can get good results. Tomorrow we are expecting really difficult game. This is one step from the final so an important game. Both teams have played nicely so they will want to win. Tomorrow’s match will be good for the supporters because they are going to witness a very good match.”