The NEUFC assistant coach also asserted that the team’s young players need to learn from their experiences.

NorthEast United will be hosting Kerala Blasters at the Fatorda Stadium on Thursday in the Indian Super League. Both the teams will be playing their second games of the season. While the Kochi-based team lost to ATK Mohun Bagan in the first game of the eighth season of the ISL, the Highlanders went down fighting against Bengaluru FC. NorthEast United‘s assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew and captain Subhasish Roy Chowdhury met with the media to discuss the match.

Both teams conceded four goals in their first encounter. And so, they will be looking to fix their defensive issues, as they aim to bounce back.

On opposition

Kerala Blasters suffered against ATK Mohun Bagan, but the Highlanders are not going to take them lightly. Assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew understands that they are a good team, with the ability to hurt his side.

He explained, “Even though Kerala Blasters lost their first game, they are a very good side, with a good coach and some very good players. So, we have to prepare very well for tomorrow and go out there with a strong mentality. We have to do our best in every department. And hopefully, by doing our best, we will get the three points at the end of the game.”

On playing after a long time

Most of the teams did not play any football for a long time. They also have to deal with pandemic-related restrictions. So, the Highlanders’ captain Subhasish believes adjusting to the situation will need some time.

He opined, “We did not feel good because we lost 4-2. But, this was our first match after 10 months, so it is sometimes very difficult to get adjusted to the situation. We are ready and we know our mistakes.”

On high-scoring matches

The first few games of the ISL have been goal-fests, much to the surprise of many. Alison Kharsyntiew understands that the reason behind the high-scoring games is the zeal of the teams to go all out in the first game.

He rationalized, “The teams try to go all out in the first game and try to win, try to score as many goals and play attacking football. The first game is always an important game.”

On what went wrong against Bengaluru FC

NorthEast captain Subhasish feels that the two matches they played for practice are different from the ISL games. And for the young players to face an experienced Bengaluru FC side, mistakes could have happened.

He said, “We played two practice matches. But, the practice matches and the competition matches are very different. And 90% of our boys are very young. So, in the first match, maybe they didn’t understand. Anything can happen in a game. We will try to learn from our mistakes.”

On injuries

The matchday squad of the opening fixture saw two prominent names omitted due to injuries for the Highlanders. Federico Gallego and Patrick Flottman were unavailable. However, both the players have returned to training with the team.

Assistant coach Kharsyntiew informed, “Patrick is fine now. He had a stomach problem, but he is okay now. He has been training with the team for the last two days. Even Federico Gallego has been training. The only concern we have is one player, Imran (Khan). I think he will be out for one week before he starts training with the team.”

On how to help youngsters

As aforementioned, NorthEast United have one of, if not the youngest squad in the league. So, for such a team after a heavy defeat, the players must be helped to overcome the mistakes. Alison Kharsyntiew also believes that experienced players are a great help for the youngsters in such tricky situations.

He suggested, “The most important thing for young players is to encourage them. Whatever mistakes they make in the game, we try to help them. Analyze it and try to work on their weaknesses, to try to improve in their game.”

“We have experienced players like our captain Subhasish, Federico Gallego, Khassa Camara, Hernan Santana and Gurjinder Kumar. They also take care of the young players and give them important tips. We have a young squad, but we have some senior players combined with them. So, we are very confident for our every game,” he added.

On Highlanders’ Indian centre-back partnership

NorthEast, owing to injuries to foreign talents, fielded a duo of Indian centre-backs. It is something not seen usually in the Indian Super League. Subhasish believes that the young Indian defenders could do with the guidance of the likes of Patrick Flottman.

He said, “As coach Alison explained, our defender Patrick had some stomach issues. So, in the last match he wasn’t there. But now, he is fit. We need an experienced foreign defender like him to guide the team. So, let’s see what happens.”

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