I-League 2017-18: Neroca coach Gift Raikhan is disappointed that he lost two points
This was I-League debutant Neroca FC’s first big match against any heavy-weight team and they were looking to continue their winning momentum. After a defeat in their very first I-League match against Minerva Punjab, they had a wonderful turn around winning both the encounters against Gokulam Kerala FC and Chennai City FC.
Neroca FC coach had brought in Akhlidin Israilov of Kyrgzstan in lieu of Ningthoujam Pritam Singh in a bid to improve upon their mid-table position.
They displayed an impressive performance in the game against Bagan and came close to scoring on a few occasions. A lucky dink might have put them on the scoreboard but that is not saying much about their game, is it?
So when a smug Neroca coach Gift Raikhan, when told to process the draw, proclaimed during the post-match conference that, “I’m so sorry. I lost two points. I could have won it.”, it took a moment for all to raise our eyebrows. With his tongue firmly in his cheek, he went on to say, “A coach always wants to win. The players also always want to win but we were playing football against Mohun Bagan. Do you know the meaning of Mohun Bagan?” Inserting an actor’s pause till his next utterance, as if preaching to a bunch of his followers, he reminded us, “I think you do. It is a big team.”
Since the humor had manifested itself, we had to ask, “But you made them look very ordinary”. Continuing with his mien he acknowledged, “I tried. I had a plan and it was a success.”
Did both Sony and Kromah not being fully fit help in his scheme of things?, we asked.
“I do not know whether they are fully fit or not but when they run they seem very fit and we had a plan not to make them play very freely.”, he smiled regaled by his own ‘success’.
His plan seemed to be playing a blocking game. Instead of conforming he put a spin on his defensive strategy by saying, “It was not defensive it was being careful. Neroca does not play defensive. The Neroca team likes to go forward. That is why we created some chances. But being a away match we needed to be careful. Mohun Bagan tried to come and score and they had a few chances. We made our defense compact when they came at us and we remained careful that's all.”
Wanting to be careful the fixture might have prompted him to shunt the Aussie import, Aryn Glen Williams, known as a midfielder to the defense. Well not quite as Raikhan made it clear. “Williams is a midfield player alright but he had an injury so we played him in the defense. But this is not for the first time that he has played in such a position. He had played as a center back before so I found it suitable and kept him there.”
He also mentioned that this 23-year old who had played for Perth Glory in the A-league had played as a stopper in the last two matches.
Well his first big game is done and dusted is Raikhan happy with his team’s performance?
“I am not satisfied with the performance but I am satisfied with the result, that I drew with Mohun Bagan.”, pat came the reply. Though his face was sombre, his heart seemed to sport a beaming smile.