One point against FC Goa is gold, says Juan Pedro Benali

NorthEast United ended their year with a draw against FC Goa.

NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali expressed his satisfaction with a point after his team held FC Goa to a 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday.

Carlos Martinez gave FC Goa the lead in the first half but the home team soon levelled the scores through Jithin MS. The visitors continued to attack in the second half and threw the kitchen sink as they tried to make their way back into the game but found it hard to break down the NorthEast United FC defence. FC Goa recorded nearly 66% percent possession and fired nine shots against the Highlanders, but only had a goal to show for their efforts. Reflecting on the result, Benali was happy with a point.

“Great point (for us). One point against FC Goa is gold. It’s time to rest and prepare the team for the next (game),” he said in the post-match press conference.

Benali made two changes to his starting eleven from their draw against Bengaluru FC with Parthib Gogoi and Gani Ahmed being handed a start. Gogoi and Jithin led the attack for the Highlanders and were involved in the equaliser.

When asked about the performance of the Indian duo, Benali said: “I don’t look at players based on their nationalities. I always say that the one who is ready will play. As you see, some players who started today didn’t play much before and it’s because of the form they have at this moment. It’s impossible for a player to be at the same level all the time in the league. They have ups and downs and we’re here for that, to make decisions when the player is not in his best form, you change him. It’s football and it’s life.”

NorthEast United FC have been winless in their last seven games and this was the third draw for them during this run. They last recorded a win in October and are currently placed sixth in the ISL table. When asked to review his team’s performance in 2023, Benali admitted that the team needs to improve but also pointed out the long-term picture.

“Yes, (ending the year), you could say we have some happiness. There are some things we could do better. We dropped some points we could take but in the end when you cool down and see, we are making a team. Today a lot of young players players. We are going the right way and in the right direction. The management has been patient, that’s important and I ask the fans to be patient too because really we are doing a good job. The players are working very hard, trying to focus. And slowly, slowly we will get there,” he expressed.

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