Both teams will go into the break after they play a game each in the upcoming week.
The match between NorthEast United and ATK at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, ended in a goalless draw as the home team failed once again to win at home. However, the Highlanders still benefited from the point as they moved up to the second place in the table, three points below leaders Bengaluru FC and level on points with third-placed Mumbai City.
On the other hand, ATK remain in sixth place, seven points clear off Kerala Blasters and equal with fifth-placed Jamshedpur FC. After the game, the coaches of both teams met with the media to express their views.
As for the home side, Shaun Ontong, their assistant coach led the conference on Eelco Schattorie’s behalf. He began the session talking about how he was content with the team’s performance saying, “Yes, we are extremely happy and extremely proud with the result even though we also drew with Bengaluru in the last game. It was a tough team today (ATK), but we defended well. We didn’t create as many chances as we wanted, but we dominated the game.”
Mislav Komorski was substituted at half-time and when asked whether the defender was fatigued he said, “That’s the thing we are to assess yet, but obviously we have had back-to-back games and have been travelling a lot and that might have an effect. It was unfortunate for him to come off, but we will have him assessed tomorrow and hopefully get to see him back for the next game.”
The Highlanders have reached 20 points for the first time in the history of the Indian Super League and when the Australian was asked whether they have any plans to earn a certain number of points to qualify for the playoffs, he said that they have been taking one game at a time. “We can’t really look too far ahead to anything. We have a really tough schedule and we are really proud of the boys that are doing their job.”
Schattorie’s side have one last game to play this year against Goa. Talking about that Ontong spoke about how the break will not have much of an impact on the team’s momentum, but that the players will get time to rest and come back strong again. “We’ll be well-prepared and well-rested before the next stage,” he asserted.
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On the other hand, ATK head coach Steve Coppell spoke about how he was content too, with his team’s performance saying, “We took on a team with difficult players, but we were not over-committed. It’s the thing, when we overcommit ourselves and don’t play it cool, then the other team takes advantage. We also had some really good opportunities, especially a couple of chances in the first half. It was a very tight game you know, with two teams which were probably too evenly-matched.”
Speaking on whether the absence of two star strikers Kalu Uche and Emiliano Alfaro has affected his plans for the season Coppell said, “Well, it’s bound to have an effect, but I think Balwant [Singh] tonight again, excellently led the line well by himself and he had a very strong performance for us and I’m pleased with what he did.”
Furthermore, the Englishman was asked about his thoughts on Komal Thatal, the teenage sensation who has received a lot of attention recently due to his excellent performances in the league. He answered by saying, “Well, to be honest, I am not aware of the attention he has received. I find Komal to be very very level-headed and sensible. But, you know when people are write about you and you get carried away. He is very humble and is just a gentleman who is trying to improve his game and get better.”
Coppell also spoke about the big break the team will go into after the game against Bengaluru next week saying, “It will have a fairly sound effect. It will almost be a six-week break and it will be difficult to try and remain organized when we come back, especially when those games will be vital for everybody.”
“I think this it is just an indication of what the season has been about because we have had an international break in October, then again in November and now we have this six-week break in December and January.”
“So, every time we get into a rhythm of games all of a sudden we have a break. So, we would like to obviously finish it strong against Bengaluru and then we will regroup in January and prepare for the final six games,” he said before concluding.