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Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham says Al Shabab penalty was 'contentious, borderline'

MUMBAI CITY HEAD COACH Des Buckingham is not convinced that the early penalty given against MCFC in their AFC Champions League 2022 campaign opener was the right call.

The ISL 2020-21 champions became the 10th Indian side to play in the men's Asian top tier club competition when they took on Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab FC. Although the first half saw a spirited show from the Mumbai-based club, things fell through in the second half.

One of the first setbacks for the club came in the form of a penalty when goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa came out to intercept Paulinho. Near the edge of the box, Paulinho went down in Phurba's proximity. The referee awarded a spot kick to Al Shabab, which was converted by Ever Banega.

The decision to award the penalty met with immediate protests with MCFC players, including some told the referee it was actually a dive.

When Buckingham was asked about the decision in the post-match press conference, He opined,

"For me, the decision to give the penalty in the first half, I think that's a big turning point in the game. I've seen it back and I'm not convinced it's a penalty. I think it's outside the box, or borderline outside the box. And I'm not how much contact there is. And for me that's a big turning point for a team that worked extremely hard... from the replays I've seen at half time... I think it's very contentious, borderline decision."

There was no VAR in effect during the match so the referee did not have the opportunity to opt for a video review of the decision.

The MCFC head coach spoke further about the match, saying it was an important match for the club,

"I thought it was a good game... it was our first game in this level of competition. Especially in the first half where we gave a good account of ourselves. I thought the penalty was certainly a turning point in the game... we all know the quality that Al Shabab have. I was proud of our players, the way we continued to try and play. We built up in the good areas of the field. We just lacked that final third quality to put the ball in the back of the net. But overall, well done to Al Shabab."

Although MCFC's campaign has gone off to a rocky start following their loss, Buckingham insisted that the team was still on track to achieve its targets in ACL 2022,

"It doesn't change our targets. It was important for the players, the first opportunity to play, first, in front of the crowd and secondly at this level of competition up against quality players and a quality team in Al Shabab. So that put us in good stead, with the experiences we are taking from this game. And there are plenty of positives to take from this game, which we will certainly take into the second game... I'm happy with how we went about playing. You know obviously the result was 3-0. Al Shabab were ruthless in front of the goal and they took their chances, and we knew that would be the case. But I was proud with how our players, especially first half, fought to play a certain way. Brave on the ball... I think the one thing we were lacking was that cutting edge... overall I am happy with the performance, not so much with the result."

Mumbai City FC will play their next match on 11th April against the Iraqi club Al-Quwa-Al-Jawiya, who defeated Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup final back in 2016.

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