Mumbai City ended their first AFC Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over Iraqi Air Force Club. In the 31st minute against the Iraqi Air Force Club for the Mumbai City Fc, Diego Mauricio scored the game’s only goal. Mumbai City FC’s opening game became the first Indian team to win the AFC Champions League by beating Iraqi Air Force Club in the second game. Mumbai City FC beat Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Air Force Club) or Iraq 1-0 to finish second in the AFC Champions League group stage in their final group match at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Islanders started Game 2 with a revamped roster as the inclusion of Diego Mauricios allowed them to play as a natural striker for the first time in the AFC Champions League. With five group winners and top three runners-up from five groups from the western region who qualified for the round of 16, Mumbai City FC failed to qualify but showed great character throughout the tournament even when the odds were against them.
Caldeira discussed the Islanders and their outstanding performance. He said, “They (Mumbai City FC) were very impressive. There was not much expectation from a team in its maiden appearance. Mumbai didn’t put all their players behind the ball to defend and pick up a goal from set pieces. Instead, they tried to play out from the back and build an attack.”
The rookies finished second in Group B, which is a great accomplishment in and of itself, with seven points from six matches. They have also played a goalless draw with Al Jazira of the UAE. However, the Des Buckingham-coached team was denied a Round of 16 tickets since they were not one of the three best second-place finishers across all five groups.
Despite the fact that they did not proceed beyond the group stage, the seven points earned were more than many expected, especially given that the competing three clubs had greater continental pedigree and represented nations ranked far higher than India in the FIFA rankings.
Having in mind the four foreigner (3+1 Asian) limit, Mumbai coach Des Buckingham was confident enough to start with three foreigners in multiple matches, his faith in his home-grown players validated by their on-field exploits. With Mumbai and ATK Mohun Bagan, who have progressed to the AFC Cup group stage for the second year running, contributing at least 10-12 players to the Indian national team, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Asian club circuit’s top operators would also have an impact on the national side’s successes in the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.