The fixture saw injuries occurring to both sides in Jackichand Singh and Keegan Pereira.
NorthEast United held FC Goa to a 2-2 draw at home after an exciting second half in their opening match in the Indian Super League. Uruguayan midfielder Federico Galago opened the hosts’ account in the first half after a horrifying error by young goalkeeper Md. Nawaz, but soon Goa’s talismanic striker Ferran Corominas scored two goals as his team led 1-2 at halftime. The Highlanders’ birthday boy Bartholomew Ogbeche scored their equaliser in the opening minutes of the second half, as both teams shared a point each at the end.
After the match, it was the visiting team’s coach Sergio Lobera who addressed the media first. Talking about the players who missed the game due to the ban he said, “Obviously, when all the players are available we have more choices, especially in tough games like today, where we were forced to make a substitution.”
“We do miss the services of Brandon and Edu, but I don’t want to make it an excuse and as a coach, I have to work to find solutions for every situation.”
Watch: NorthEast United 2-2 FC Goa highlights
The coach then talked about the first goal his team conceded and said, ”For me, there were two mistakes in the first goal. The first mistake we made is when the keeper handled the ball outside the box and secondly, we allowed them to take the free-kick quickly which led to the goal.”
The Spaniard took a surprising decision in the starting lineup as he decided to field young goalkeeper Md. Nawaz ahead of an experienced keeper in Laxmikant Kattimani. Talking about picking Nawaz instead of Kattimani he said, “As a coach, I decide to play the keeper who is the fittest at that time. Next game against Chennai we will see who will play as we have three very good keepers at our disposal and regardless of the age, what I look for is who is at the best shape,”
In the absence of Brandon Fernandes, former Kerala Blasters winger Jackichand Singh started for the Gaurs on the right wing and had a brilliant game before he was subbed off with an injury. Speaking about Jackichand’s performance Lobera said, “The minutes he was on the pitch, his performance was pretty good and as for the injury it’s too soon to give a verdict now.”
On the other hand, the home team’s gaffer Eelco Schattorie seemed pleased with his team’s performance with the limited time and friendlies his team got to play before the season. Speaking about the game he said, “For positives, I would have to say the result. For pre-season we needed two more weeks to really get fit.”
“We weren’t really tested in our friendly games except two games. The game fitness still wasn’t there. So, the result that we managed is a good one as Goa are with the same team as last year with almost the same players, which means that their strategy is implemented properly, whereas for us we are still lacking,” he added.
In every past season, NorthEast’s goalkeeper TP Rehenesh has been at the end of some terrible mistakes which have led to goals and Monday was no different. When asked about his performance Eelco said, “I think TP (Rehenesh) made some brilliant saves last year, but for any goalkeeper, particularly in India, almost every goalkeeper lacks some stability.”
“For me, TP is a fantastic goalkeeper. Maybe at times he needs to take less risks. Especially, in the first goal that we conceded, I think instead of going for the grab he should’ve punched the ball outside. Nevertheless, TP is a great goalkeeper and I am happy to have him in my team,” he quipped.
The gaffer then took his time to speak highly of his young Indian players and said, “To start with Redeem, he comes from Shillong and I saw a few videos of him before he joined and he’s multi-functional. He can play on the right wing as well as he can shift inside in the midfield.”
“One thing I would really like to see is him giving assists, but at the end of the day, it’s all a process. He alongside Putea (Lalthathanga) are the two boys who are developing really well, who played the game against Minerva and did really well.”
“The feedback and their willingness to perform better is very promising. I’m very happy with these boys’ progress and I can only hope they grow well,” Schattorie further added.
The coach took his leave after he spoke about left-back Keegan Pereira’s injury. “Looks like it’s a huge problem. From what I can see now, it looks like a ligament tear and unfortunately, he may be out for a while.”
NorthEast United will now travel to Kolkata to take on ATK on 4th October, whereas FC Goa will travel to Chennai to face the defending champions Chennaiyin on 6th October.