AFC Champions League 2021-22 | Mumbai City FC finish second in group, fail to progress

no photo

Mumbai City FC may have been eliminated in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, but the Islanders will come back home with their dignity intact. MCFC gave their best foot forward in Asia's premier club league to achieve something no other Indian football team has ever done.

Mumbai City FC became the first Indian team to win an AFC Champions League match in their maiden season when they overcame Iraq's Air Force Club in their second encounter of the league. The former Indian Super League (ISL) champions finished a credible second in Group B of the western region but did not advance to the knockout stages.

The outcomes were nicer than the team had anticipated before to the competition. “We want to try and do something no other Indian club has done before, which for me, is to win a game at this competition. And we take it from there,” MCFC manager Des Buckingham had said.

The Islanders performed better than expected, finishing with two victories, a draw, and three losses. What makes the results even more impressive is that MCFC entered the tournament in poor shape and without some of its star players. The ISL 2020-21 League Shield champions could not even make the domestic league playoffs this season, finishing sixth, as per a report in

Rowlin Borges, the talismanic midfielder, and Igor Angulo, the talismanic striker, were both injured. Furthermore, the other clubs in the Mumbai City group had significantly more experience and accomplishments. While Al Shabab is a six-time Saudi Arabian champion, Air Force Club of Iraq has won the AFC Cup three times. Al Jazira of the UAE also entered the tournament as three-time Pro League champions.

Unsurprisingly, Mumbai City FC was beaten 3-0 by Al Shabab in the first game of the competition. Des Buckingham went back to the drawing board and came up with a new strategy: defend deep and go all out on counterattacks. And it was effective. Mumbai City FC made history by defeating Air Force Club 2-1 in the second game. The Islanders fought back from a goal down, thanks to a penalty goal by Diego Mauricio and a corner header by Rahul Bheke. Bheke also made history by becoming the first Indian to score in the AFC Champions League.

While Al Jazira beat Mumbai City 1-0 in the third encounter, the Islanders outplayed them in the second leg, holding them to a goalless draw and adding another vital point to their tally. One of the highlights was goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa's strong performance. Mumbai's defence corps, which included Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Rahul Bheke, and Mandar Rao Dessai, also performed admirably.

Despite the fact that Mumbai's chances of progressing to the next round were ended by a 6-0 loss to Al Shabab, Des Buckingham's men ensured the team competed well. Mumbai City FC defeated Air Force Club 1-0 in the final match to secure second place. Diego Mauricio's winning goal resulted from a counterattack. With only the five group winners and three best runners-up from the five western area groups making the cut for the round of 16, the Islanders were unable to advance, but they demonstrated tremendous spirit throughout the tournament, despite the odds being stacked against them.

With two victories and seven points, Mumbai City exceeded its expectations and demonstrated what Indian football teams are capable of at the highest level.


Mumbai City 0-3 Al Shabab

Air Force Club 1-2 Mumbai City FC

Al Jazira 1-0 Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC 0-0 Al Jazira

Al Shabab 6-0 Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC 1-0 Air Force Club

Get updates! Follow us on

Open all