ISL 2023-24: NorthEast United FC's Benali dedicates win over East Bengal FC to the fans; WATCH highlights
NorthEast United FC notched a thumping 3-2 victory over East Bengal FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 in the first of the Staurday double header.
NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali expressed contentment as his team clinched a narrow 3-2 victory against East Bengal FC during Matchweek 14 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.
The Highlanders initiated the game with flair, as Australian forward Tomi Juric struck the net within four minutes of kickoff, granting his team an early lead. Within the next 10 minutes, Spanish forward Nestor Albiach extended NorthEast United FC's advantage, securing a 2-0 lead within the opening 15 minutes.
Despite a revitalized performance from the Red and Gold Brigade in the second half, marked by a goal from Nandhakumar Sekar, Juric promptly notched his second goal, reinstating NorthEast United FC's two-goal advantage. Although East Bengal FC managed to narrow the deficit once again through Felicio Forbes, they ultimately fell short.
The outcome elevated the Highlanders to the sixth position in the league table.
After enduring eight winless ISL games, NorthEast United FC finally broke the streak and returned to winning ways. Benali expressed his joy for the victory and dedicated it to the fans.
“Well, it's gone exactly how we thought it would go. We stopped East Bengal FC’s way of playing. We changed the game plan for them, and they found it hard. It's a great team with very good players, a great coach also, and well, I'm very happy. This is the game our fans were waiting for since Durand Cup. And we give it to them, that’s for them. You know it's important for us, all the players are very happy, proud that our fans can sleep very well. But well, don't sleep tonight, just dream with this game. Could have been more goals but well, this is how it is,” stated Benali in the post-match press conference.
Newly signed Juric stole the spotlight of the evening, marking his debut with a remarkable brace. His second goal, a delightful curling shot into the far corner, left the keeper with no chance. However, Benali opted to attribute the success to the entire team, despite Juric's heroics.
“Not only Tomi Juric, you know, who gave the ball to Tomi Juric, who won the ball to give it to Tomi Juric, who fights defensively, the goalkeeper. Everybody, you know, the players who didn't play, the players were training very hard to make their teammates better and really, the staff, media, everybody in the club, even the people who take care of the field. It's not only one single player who changed the game. It's everyone. Everyone, the physios, the doctors, you know, everybody works for this. And Tommy is the image we can say. But behind that image there's a lot of work,” Benali expressed.
Sharing his philosophy on objectives ahead, Benali said, “We are NorthEast United FC, working. Our objective is clear, and that is to develop and prepare. If we go to the playoffs, fantastic. If we don't go, we will still be working and preparing everything for next season, that's for sure.”
The 54-year-old coach stated that he is currently not focused on their position in the league table and disclosed his preference for approaching the rest of the season one game at a time.
“I don't look at the positions now. Game. Now, from tomorrow (Sunday), we start thinking for the next game, next game, next game, next game. If you look far away and you forget today you just get totally lost. I prefer just to think next game. We cannot say to look on the back or to look at what the others are doing,” Benali shared.