Mustapha Riga: I have never played as a lone striker in my career

The former Bolton Wanderers’ player believes that his side must be tight at the back…

Pune FC’s Mustapha Riga was disheartened following his side’s 3-0 defeat on home soil at the hands of Vietnam’s Ha Noi T&T in an Asian Champions League play-off’s round one.

The Red Lizards will now be placed in group H in the AFC Cup, the second tier continental competition alongside Tampines Rovers (Singapore), Nay Pyi Taw FC (Myanmar) and Kitchee SC (Hong Kong).

“We started well but I think we fell back a bit when the first goal was scored. It was disappointment for us,” Riga, who has scored five goals in nine league matches for Pune FC, told Goal.

The ex-Levante attacker, who had scored from the spot at Camp Nou against Barcelona in 2008 was marked well by Hanoi’s two centre-backs, namely Sam Gallagher and Hong Tien.

“As you can see it is always difficult when you play alone in front. I keep trying to work hard by making the best out of it but it is difficult,” he explained.

On being asked whether he had played as a lone striker upfront earlier in his career, the 32-year old replied, “Well, no…actually no. I have played in two striker system but how do I say as it depends on the quality of the opponent. (Have played in a team with)Two strikers, yes.

“Number ten is my role but it doesn’t matter as ten-nine is all the same. The team has to stand well for you to break through the wall of the opponent. Your team has to stand well and if your team cannot stand well then it is difficult.”

Riga hoped that his team do not give away cheap goals and should he get the chances from which his side concede, he would have scored a lot more.

“We started well and then we fell back. If we had taken the first goal from Gabriel (Fernandes) then it’s a different game. If you don’t score in football then they scored. It (The momentum) goes there.

“We need to work hard because the goals we give away is a bit easy. I hope they (the opponents) give also those easy goals in front.”

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