Having seen his side start its Indian Super League (ISL) 2016 campaign with a 1-0 win over state rivals Pune, Mumbai City FC coach Alexandre Guimaraes was cautiously optimistic about their prospects this season. A Matias Defederico goal in the 69th minute helped Mumbai defeat FC Pune City at the latter's Balewadi Stadium home.
But Guimaraes stressed on the need to improve. "We didn't get enough possession of the ball, and it was only after 20-25 minutes that we found our game and the space for our players to perform. In defence, we have to be much more alert and not allow counter attacks. It is now a matter of recovery, rest, eating well and making adjustments. The practice we had in Dubai has shown. But we'll need to play well throughout the tournament. We would have to adjust fast," he said.
Though marquee player Diego Forlan had a quiet outing, Guimaraes wasn't too perturbed by Forlan's no show. "I think he did what we wanted him to do. He moved the way we wanted him to move. He played like a No 9. When he moves he creates distraction and that is a situation that we profit from. Other players will find him more game-by-game, and he will be able to show his ability," Guimaraes said.
The first Maharashtra derby of the season produced a fairly even match, however, and the team that took its first chance came up triumphant. Guimaraes also spoke of the number of issues that have plagued Mumbai since the start of the tournament. "The start of a tournament is always difficult, because we have to manage different situations in hours. Just 3-4 days ago, Sony had to go to Haiti for national team duty, while we also have the situation with Bengaluru FC (Five players from Mumbai City FC are away with the I-League side on AFC Cup duty)," he lamented.
Guimaraes heaped praise on his players, however. "In just five days, our players have shown tremendous ability through our work and have shown discipline. They understood the way we have to play against a very good team, a very well worked team. We had to be strong in our defensive organisation and with the players we have up front. It is a matter of time. We kept working and I think the result is a good start," he said.
The visitors were also handicapped by the non-availability of winger Jackichand Singh. The Manipuri international is the best Indian player in the Mumbai line-up after Sunil Chettri, and after appearing with the manager in the pre-match conference, was a shoe-in to play on the right wing. But according to the Costa Rican coach, Jackichand was "dealing with some leg problems" and didn't get enough practice with the team. "I decided to think about him as an energiser player from the bench. He is working hard and is doing well. The way this tournament works, everyone will have their opportunity."
Mumbai will now take on NorthEast United FC in their first home game of the season at the Andheri Sports Complex on 7 October.