It was contrasting emotions for both coaches at the end of a pulsating encounter in Kochi.
“I had three heart attacks in the last 10 minutes,” said Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen when asked whether he experienced any nerves as his side failed to find a second goal in their 1-0 win over 10-men NorthEast United. in the Indian Super League (ISL) match on Saturday.
The former Manchester United coach, pleased to clinch the first win of the season, was full of praise for Wes Brown, who made his debut in a yellow shirt. Coming in place of injured Dimitar Berbatov, the 38-year-old was deployed as a defensive midfielder.
“We had a chat about it and I thought to park him in front of the back four. I didn’t expect Wes (Brown) to see out the 90 minutes. But, he did extremely well and I am delighted for him.”
CK Vineeth’s first half winner also ensured Blasters claim their third successive victory against NorthEast at home. Blasters’ forward line squandered plenty of chances in the second half, but Meulensteen was happy that his side kept a clean sheet.
“The good thing is we are scoring and more than anything we won our first game this season. There is no better medicine for confidence to flow in the team than a win. We are happy to put a smile on everyone’s face,” said the 53-year-old.
He also spoke at length about the decision to replace Arata Izumi with youngster Siam Hanghal. “Around Wes I need to create energy and that’s why I had Siam and Courage (Pekuson) in the squad. You can’t expect Wes to go from box-to-box or side-to-side. Arata has done the job we asked for him to do but we needed more.”
If Highlanders boss Joao de Deus had a smile on his face during the pre-match press conference on Thursday it was a different story on Friday. The Portugese seemed furious with the referee, but refused to discuss his goalkeeper’s dismissal.
“I don’t want to speak about the red card because if I do then I will have to speak about the incident happened in the Kerala box and three or four other situations.”
De Deus compared his team’s performance to the defeat to Bengaluru FC and claimed he was impressed with the way his team responded after TP Rehenesh’s red card.
“If we had converted our chances, we could have won the game. With just 10 players on the pitch we tried to score and created some good chances. Our opponents also had their chances but we were playing a man short,” he pointed out.
Brazilian striker Danilo Lopes endured a frustrating evening as he came close twice in the second half to level the match for the visitors visitors. However, De Deus is confident the 26-year-old will come good.
The Highlanders will travel to Pune next knowing that three points are a must to keep them in the hunt for a playoffs spot. “Not everything is going wrong for us. I am sure one day we will score three or four goals. We know it could happen anytime,” the head coach added.