NorthEast United FC eked out a hard fought 1-1 draw against the undefeated Delhi Dynamos on Saturday evening.
An exhilarating contest in the Indian Super League (ISL) was for all to see and NorthEast coach Nelo Vingada praised the quality of the game.
“ISL should be proud of this fantastic game. I have played and coached many teams all around the world, especially in Asia and this game could be a good game in any league in any country. This has to be the best game all around in ISL 2016. Two great teams, with fantastic attitude showed up today.
“Both sides had a good chance to win or lose, so I believe we deserved to draw with them. Delhi controlled the match for certain stretches, but considering this is our fifth game in two weeks, I am so proud of the boys, and to be a part of the family and coach this team,” said the experienced coach.
Vingada backed his side to come good against any opposition in the ISL. He reiterated that his team are always on the lookout of three points, whether playing at home or away.
“I hope everybody in Guwahati and the north-east is feeling proud of this team. There is positive energy all around. Of course, one point here is good against this Delhi team, but it means nothing if it does not help you achieve your target of playing in the semi-final and final. So we need more points but I am confident of this team to perform.
“From what I have seen in these two weeks, this team has grown up and we can match up against any team in any place. We always look to win, whether it’s by playing beautiful football or running around and chasing the game. I am very happy to be in this country, this league and happy to be coaching this team. Anyone could have won or lost in this game,” commented the Portuguese on the outcome of the game and his overall impression of his team’s performance.
Veteran Indian keeper, Subrata Paul misjudged a corner which led to Delhi’s goal but the 63-year-old coach defended his stopper and spoke about the team’s identity they have carved out.
“Subrata is a very important member of the team. He’s played very good games and even today he was crucial in certain situations. He did his best to keep the result 1-0 and it permitted us to make a comeback. The important thing is that in this short time, we created an identity. The team identity is very important and because of it so many of our players play well because the other players protect them and play for them like family.
“Results may be forever, but nothing is more important that team cohesion and identity. A player who would play for us for 10-to-15 minutes in a match for the first time would look like he’s been playing with us for long time. I don’t know if Subrata has an injury, but I hope he will recover,” defended Vingada when questioned if Paul’s performance was up to the mark.
The former Maritomo coach was asked to compare the performance of his Indian and foreign contingent to which he answered diplomatically.
“Foreign players are a part of the team, but whether it’s them or the Indians, it’s the same thing. According to the rules, we have to field a minimum number of Indian players and sometimes it can be a difficult balance to maintain but I look at all the players in the same way,” he replied.
The performance of his players impressed the NorthEast coach and he didn’t shy away from praising them.
“Delhi’s goal happened because of our mistake. We created better chances in the first than in the second half. I was surprised myself at our sharpness, fitness and determination because we’re playing five times in two weeks. Maybe after four games the performance dips, but this team made sure that never happened,” he explained.
Robert Cullen came on as a second half substitute replacing Argentinean forward Nicolas Velez and the coach gave a brief background on his playing style.
“Robert Cullen is a player who can play in any position in attack - on right or left or behind the striker. He played on the left today. He did well today after coming into a highly competitive game by adjusting to the pace and rhythm,” he shared his thoughts on the 31-year-old.
Katsumi Yusa looked relatively quieter and the coach explained his team’s strategy without giving too much away.
“Our strategy has certain movements, our players are special. Sometimes Yusa is our first contact, sometimes (Emiliano) Alfaro. Did it affect the movement, playing through Alfaro? Maybe yes maybe no, but I believe in the players and these things can happen,” he mentioned.
Several NorthEast United fans thronged to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi and Vingada called for more fans to support them in Guwahati.
“Support has been fantastic in all the places we’ve played. Now in Guwahati, I hope the stadium is fully occupied,” said the former Maritimo manager when quizzed about the supporters of NorthEast United.
Asked about how he would utilise the longer gaps between his next three games, the Portuguese coach said, “It is important to recover. Again we’ve had five games in two weeks; the weight of the effort will obviously be felt. It’s always better to rest five days than three, so we can recover well. But I have to reiterate that the response of this team has been amazing and very positive. To achieve what we have as a unit in this short time is fantastic.”