After a couple of gritty performances that fetched four points, Mumbai City FC were handed a 6-0 humbling by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab FC in their fifth Group B match of the AFC Champions League in Riyadh on Friday night.
It was the heaviest loss for an Indian club for the second year in the competition. FC Goa lost 0-4 to Persepolis FC last year. The result eliminated the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) champions at the group stage. Mumbai City, who scored a historic first win for an Indian club in the elite Asian event against Iraq’s Air Force Club and then held abu Dhabi-based Al Jazira goalless in the previous game, are last in the four-team group, tied with Al Jazira with one game to go.
Hattan Bahebri (19′, 64′, 66′) scored a hat-trick for the 2010 semi-finalists, and Abdullah Al-Joui (52′) and Carlos Junior (81′) chipped in. An own goal by captain and defender Mourtada Fall in the 36th minute summed up the evening for the debutants.
“It’s a tough loss in terms of the scoreline,” Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham said. “But again, they’ve shown their quality and the difference at this level when they’re clinical and take their chances.
“They’re one of the best teams in this competition,” he said. “When you don’t quite get things right, and when you’re up against a team who are ruthless, this can happen at this level with a team that has players who haven’t played here.”
Unlike their last meeting, when Mumbai City had just three shots on goal in a 3-0 loss, they showed more purpose with 11 shots on the day. It was Mumbai City who had the first real scoring opportunity, which neede two fine saves by Al-Shabab goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni off a Raynier Fernandes strike and a Lalengmawia Ralte rebound. But once Al-Shabab got on board, and Fall’s attempt to clear Junior’s finish from the goal line instead saw the ball into the net 10 minutes before half-time, Mumbai City lost their shape.
“The first half I was pleased, especially the opening 10-15 minutes. We had the chance where we should have scored,” Buckingham said. “But from the moment we gave the goal, we started getting a bit too defensive. We didn’t stick to what we wanted to do.”
The Englishman asserted the team will regroup quickly, ahead of its final group game against Air Force Club. “Yes, it’s six (goals), but we must get on with things and make sure we’re ready for the final game. We still have the opportunity to finish strong.”