The Blasters’ assistant coach also admitted that his team missed the presence of Raphael Messi Bouli.

NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters played out a 0-0 draw at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati on Friday evening. Following what was their fourth game without a win in a row, Blasters assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed, who managed the team in the absence of the suspended Eelco Schattorie, addressed the media in the post-match press conference.

Thoughts On The Game

Reflecting on the Yellow Army’s display against the Highlanders, Ishfaq Ahmed expressed his content with how the team executed their plans. However, the 36-year-old admitted that the Blasters should have capitalized on the few chances they got. With a positive mindset, Ishfaq Ahmed went on to talk of the importance of turning their attention to their upcoming game against Bengaluru FC.

“Honestly speaking, I think we did according to plan. We know that they play really compact. If you see the previous matches, against ATK or Mumbai, they only lost 1-0 and got some chances. Could have been different results for them.”

“We knew they were going to stay very compact and wouldn’t allow us to get through them. Honestly, we got a few chances, but couldn’t capitalize on them. I felt we knew that there might be only a few chances against them and we should have capitalized on them,” Ishfaq Ahmed stated.

“In the end, it was a fair result. A little bit disappointed, but in away matches, sometimes, you’ve got to take what you get, even a point and concentrate on the next match. It is the big derby coming up for us and I think after coming on the back of two losses we had a good show here. They also got one chance, where the goalkeeper did well. Happy that our goalkeeper did quite okay. We will go on to the next match,” he added.

Absence Of Raphael Messi Bouli

Raphael Messi Bouli has been a mainstay in the Kerala Blasters lineup this season, but the Cameroonian missed out on Friday evening’s game through suspension. The unavailability of the striker was a big blow for the Yellow Army according to Ishfaq Ahmed, who feels the side could have done with the physical presence of the 27-year-old.

“We definitely miss him. His physical presence is a big worry for defenders and you can see they have two quite tall defenders. I think he would have been really helpful, but that’s why other players are there. Somebody is missing, he is missing. There are other players and they need to do the job. He is back for the next match and let’s see how things go,” Ishfaq Ahmed explained.

On Sahal Abdul Samad

Having come off the bench in the last two games, Sahal Abdul Samad was given a start against NorthEast United. While the Kerala lad was not able to make an impact during his 83 minutes on the pitch, Ishfaq Ahmed was delighted with his efforts. The Indian coach heaped praise on the midfielder for adding physicality to his game, before tipping him to become one of the best players in the country.

“I am very, very happy that he brought that physical part in his game. You see, he was chasing. Earlier, people were only talking about – he is very skillful. I know he is a gifted player, but I think the head coach wanted that physical part in him and I spoke to him.”

“I think Sahal is really working hard on that part of his game, which I saw. Even in previous matches, he has definitely worked hard to become a better player. I have no doubt in him. He will be one of the best in future, in fact for the country also,” he concluded.