The Highlanders registered their first win of the game in Kolkata on Thursday. 

NorthEast United picked up their first win of the Indian Super League season by downing a disappointing ATK 1-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. A late winner from Rowllin Borges was enough to defeat the 10-man ATK, who lost Sena Ralte earlier in the first half.

Steve Coppell seemed bemused at the referee’s decision to send off Ralte. He said, “It’s not a good idea to play 10 against 11. I thought it was a very harsh red card. I think the referee couldn’t read the climax of the game. It wasn’t a temperamental game but he showed too many yellow cards to many players. My player was guilty of a silly second challenge. He got punished and we had to play with 10 men for almost an hour. It was cruel for our players to lose like that in the end.”

The gaffer was also asked about whether he felt TP Rehenesh should’ve seen red after elbowing Gerson Viera in the first half. He said, “I didn’t see that challenge. So it’s difficult for me to comment. But I don’t know whether there can be a retrospective action now. If they had lost a man at that stage, it would’ve been a different kind of game.”

 
 
 
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Watch: ATK 0-1 NorthEast United highlights

When asked about how difficult he thought it was to come-back after the sending off, he said, “Well, it ’s certainly not the way we wanted to start. We were ready for the game today and started brightly and then the sending off happened. It made it so difficult then for us to do anything other than doing anything after that. Can we come back? Yes. The ISL is not a 100-yard race, but a 400-meter marathon. We have 13 days for our next game. We’ll be working hard to get a win in that game.”

ATK have conceded late for the second game in a row. Speaking about whether that is lack of energy of concentration, he stated, “I don’t know to be honest. I don’t think it’s a fitness thing. The players were very tired in the end. It was unfortunate to concede a second piece goal. Rowllin wasn’t marked properly in the goal. We also couldn’t have a player in the far-pos

The Englishman was asked about whether major changes can be expected in their system after two successive losses. He explained,“ I wouldn’t have thought of. We have got Kalu who came on in the end. We were doing okay before that I feel. It just became obvious to bring him in towards the end. I have Kalu and BIkey, who might be fit the next game so they’ll be available for that. Sena will not be available obviously. I hope nobody is injured from this game and we head to Delhi with a full team.”

ATK has a relatively aged squad and centre-backs who have a difference in age-gap. When asked about that playing a factor the results, he remarked,  “I would say, 30 is a peak age. Physically it’s not an issue for our centre-backs. They had more possession because of their extra man and we let them have the possession. The side isn’t a young one and isn’t a terrifically energetic side. But if we had played 11 v 11, they wouldn’t have the possession they had. I’ve always played 4-4-1 whenever I’ve been down to 10 men. Their advantage today wasn’t massive, but was significant.”

Finally, when asked on whether ATK will travel quickly to Delhi to get accustomed to their conditions, Coppell said, “No, I don’t think we’ll go there a week early. We’ll go there when the schedule is. We have great training facilities here. Sometimes you don’t get access to training facilities in the ISL. So we’ll do our best to prepare for that match by training hard here in Kolkata.”

Eelco Schattorie seemed a pleased man after the win. About players who have played in Kolkata before helping NEUFC today, “First I want to address that the pre-season we went to was far from the way I wanted it. To pull off four points in the first two games is fantastic after that. It’s a big compliment to the players wanting to work together. I like to play attacking football. I like to dominate. Taking into consideration that we had two days to recover, I was a bit frustrated at how we played. Things got even difficult after they got a red-card because players had to work hard to break them. But we got away with three points, which is fantastic.”


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The Dutch coach was asked about whether he thought the sending off of Ralte was the turning point of the match. He explained, “If the team plays the style that I want, the red card is good for me. It means we played more circulation football. I expected a little bit more in circulating the ball around the field. The red card is a turning point, but it didn’t really play as that big an advantage. Sometimes the players play things get easier, but that wasn’t the case today as we had to work hard for the win.”

When asked about the Highlanders poor final ball he said, “The goal I thought was fantastic. The corner was great and the deliverance of it was great. But when it comes to the fact about the final ball, it has to be very improved by bounds.”

“I don’t say anything about the referee.” He stated when quizzed about the referee’s decisions on the day.  

Having managed in both I-League and the ISL, Eelco was asked about performance-wise which league he thought is better. He said, “It’s very difficult to decide about which league needs a better performance. The only thing that I see is the number of foreigners in the field. Even ATK had some really good foreigners. If you compare both leagues, then the ISL has more quality on the field.”

Finally, Eelco had some interesting comments when talking about the performance of his match-winner, Rowllin Borges, “At halftime, I made an aggressive speech. One thing about our group is that there is a will to work. We started a bit sloppy. We only had two days of rest. We aren’t at a great fitness level. Rowllin recovered excellently int eh 2nd half and scored a fantastic goal. But I think he has much more potential to grow as a player in the future.”