Vasco (Goa), Nov 22 (Agency) NorthEast United FC head coach Gerard Nus was a happy man following his team’s 1-0 win over Mumbai City FC in the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League at the Tilak Maidan Stadium here on Saturday. Nus, in charge of NorthEast United FC for the first time, had every reason to celebrate the win after an underwhelming season in 2019-20 for the Highlanders with just two victories in 18 games.
“I think we played a competitive game. We knew what to expect from a brilliant side like Mumbai City and we followed our plan and did a fantastic job. I’m so pleased with all my players. Even the guys that didn’t get much time in the game or the ones who didn’t get a single minute but they were pushing the team from the bench. So, I’m pleased with the team, this is the start of what I believe is a serious season for NorthEast United and obviously I’m happy but need to keep improving at the same time,” Nus said in the post-match media interaction.
The complexion of the match totally changed after Mumbai’s Ahmed Jahouh picked up a red card two minutes from first half for a lunging tackle from behind. And then Kwesi Appiah added insult to injury from the spot four minutes into the second half after a Rowllin Borges violation. According to Nus, “Obviously, penalties and sending-offs are moments in any football game. They make things go one way or another but at the end, they are just moments. If you relax then a team like Mumbai City will punish you so we had the right mentality, were switched on all the time and were very strong. So, I’m very happy about it.” The 35-year-old Spaniard also emphasised the importance of the win. “When you start a new season, it’s always nice to start with three points. But even if the result wasn’t in our favour, you can see that there is a clear pattern of play and I’ve said that since day one. We are going to be a team that fights, we will never give up and that’s what we saw today and also in the friendly matches we had before the season started,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mumbai City head coach Sergio Lobera agreed the red card went a long way towards deciding the outcome of the match. “It was a big problem for us today because I believe that the red card changed the game and playing with 10 men and missing a big player like Jahouh was a big problem for us. But I have 28 players for the next game and I am very happy with the squad, so I’m not going to make any excuses for the next game after losing just one player,” he said. When asked if Mumbai were over-enthusiastic to play Lobera’s brand of football in the first half i.e. expansive in nature, the Mumbai City head coach said, “We tried to implement a new style of play but it’s not easy. Four players played with me before but the rest of the players are new to my system. I am still happy but we need to improve and it’s important to improve by winning. Today it wasn’t possible but we need to put all our focus into the next game.”