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ISL 2023-24: Benali lauds NorthEast United FC's players after win over Odisha FC; WATCH highlights

NorthEast United FC bowed out of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on a high with a resounding 3-0 victory against Odisha FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.

football ISL 2023-24: Benali lauds NorthEast United FC's players after win over Odisha FC; WATCH highlights snt
First Published Apr 14, 2024, 2:03 PM IST

Juan Pedro Benali, the head coach of NorthEast United FC, expressed his satisfaction with his team's progress following their impressive 3-0 victory against Odisha FC in their final Indian Super League (ISL) match of the season at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.

The Highlanders got off to a flying start when Parthib Gogoi netted an early goal just 12 minutes into the game. Nestor Albiach swiftly followed up with a sublime strike from the edge of the opponent's box, doubling their lead within the next four minutes.

Despite a penalty awarded to the Kalinga Warriors in the 24th minute due to Hamza Regragui's challenge on Pranjal Bhumij, Mirshad KM's save from Roy Krishna's spot-kick maintained NorthEast United FC's comfortable two-goal advantage.

In the final moments before halftime, Phalguni Singh extended the lead to 3-0 for the Highlanders, a lead they successfully defended throughout the second half, sealing their ISL 2023-24 campaign with a convincing triumph.

Benali expressed his delight with the team's development over the season, highlighting their growth and determination.

“We are a good team. We're making a very good team. We need to just adjust some points, you know, and the problem is that for these points we need time to understand the way we can win the games. Now we start to know the way we want to play. And now we need to start to learn the way we win the games,” stated Benali in the post-match press conference.

He added, “One of the biggest problems we had is we had no rhythm because it was a lot of time between a game and another. If you see most of the games we won is when we are playing following a schedule and playing a game every week or every week two games, it's easier.”

“But I congratulate the players. They had a great season and did a great job,” he continued. 

Benali's squad concludes the season in seventh place, amassing 26 points from 22 matches. They sit just one point below sixth-placed Chennaiyin FC, who still have one game left to play.

Sharing his insights into the season, the Spaniard said, “We lost the playoff many games before, you know, many, many points before. We dropped a lot. And, that's the price we should pay for putting young players. That’s the price of learning. That’s the price of transition, we pay it. And now we are ready to win. That's the most important thing. That's the message we have for next season. Win, win, and win.”

Benali expressed disappointment with the current level of support the team has received, believing that a boost in attendance could significantly impact the team's performance on the field. He also provided insights into the club's plans for the upcoming year, emphasizing a focus on enhancing fan engagement to create a more vibrant and supportive atmosphere for the team.

He shared, “I think the only point that we are missing, is not a white point. I can say the little black point is we need supporters. I think it's the only point that is missing in the club. We can and we could win more games (if they are there).” 

“Today we had a meeting before, in the morning that the club is willing to go to all the cities of Northeast to play. We just waiting for the different stadiums to be ready. And we're trying also to play some friendly games to show everyone that we are all the regions, 'the eight states’ team. But when we play in Guwahati, we need people, we need fans, we need supporters," Benali continued. 

Summarising how the team has changed this season, the 55-year-old said, “We have more points than the last two seasons together. We developed a team from scratch, from minus five, to where we are now.”

He concluded the press conference by expressing his pride in choosing NorthEast United FC over other clubs, considering it to be his best decision.

“The best thing for me was not accepting other offers from other teams and coming to NorthEast United FC. It's true, it's true. I did the best thing to come to India for the last three years. I had many offers to come, and I think I came at the right moment, in the right place, with the right people,” he signed off.

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