ISL 2016: Positives and negatives of NorthEast Uniited's win over the Kerala Blasters
It wasn’t really a perfect match for NorthEast United or Kerala Blasters FC, but the solitary goal by ISL debutant Katsumi Yusa ensured the home team a victory in the opening match of the 2016 Indian Super League.
Both the coaches aren’t fooled by the result and know very well that a lot needs to be done with their respective teams in the coming days. As mentioned by Kerala coach Steve Coppell in the post match conference, “Both teams played the same and hence cancelled each other out.”
But must not we forget that this was the first game of the season and both the teams had a host of new players alongside their coaches. And it takes a little bit of time for things to settle down before things galvanise. But in a short league like the ISL, the success of any team depends on how quickly adapt with each other.
NorthEast United, no doubt is one of the most promising sides of the league, but the team calls for much more matured play in the future if they don’t intent to make a repeat of last seasons.
The back four
In the post match conference, Robin Gurung, who has been with the team for the last three seasons pointed out on previous occasions, managers focused more on the attack which leaves no one behind. But this time around, the back four of the team, Robin Gurung, Regan Singh and the Brazilian duo of Gustavo Lazzaretti and Mailson Alves stood firmly behind. It looked like a definite plan and Lazzaretti who lead the team contributed immensely to keep the shape of the defence line alive.
The Brazilian is a crafted defender and neutralised numerous threats with challenging and threatening tackles inside the box. Something what Cedric Hengbart did for the team last season. Barring a couple of scares and miscommunication with the players, things were more than satisfactory at the back.
The Japanese magic
Katsumi Yusa might call this his dream debut with the I-League sensation becoming the first goal scorer of this ISL. The sole spark of the match has to be credited to this man who has been relatively consistent throughout. And as predicted earlier, he will surely be the key man in the NorthEast United midfield. His biggest asset is his pace and this can be a very handy as coupled with his accuracy he can go on to score. Watch the repeat of the goal; it’s his pace that made it all happen.
Uruguayan forward Emiliano Alfaro was also impressive upfront with him being remarkably pro-active upfront. It‘s just a goal that probably is taking all the limelight away from him.
The shape of the attack
The visible concern of the team after the first match was the forward line. Historically NorthEast has always lacked a finisher and fans would seriously hope that this doesn’t happen this time around. There were a lot of chances created today, but there wasn’t anyone in the right positions to tap the ball in. There seems to be an element of confusion within the forwards.
For instance in the 22nd minute when Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric took the free kick from the left of the box, Alfaro neatly headed it for someone to tap in. But there was no one around.
Things strictly need to be better and Nelo Vingada knows it very well and rightly pointed out in the post-match conference.
Kerala had no attempts on the post till the 38th minute of the first half. Most of their counters were broken despite having a good run around the midfield. The team needs much more creativity and energy as pointed out by their coach to make an impact in the game.
Antonio German was probably the only player who threatened the opposition, but the fact that he could not last for the full 90 minutes might just trigger a few warning bells in the squad. In the second half, Kerala was a bit unlucky to have not scored a goal and right when it seemed that they might just get a breakthrough, NorthEast scored.
Jhingan and Mehtab
Two big Indian names in the team are Sandesh Jhingan and Mehtab Hossain. And from what it looks like both of them did not really have quite a decent outing in their first ISL game this season.
Jhingan needs to be a little more active on the field. He has great shoulders and against NorthEast it wasn’t really the great use of them. Mehtab, on the other hand, played on the edge and needs to check on his fluidity and accuracy when it comes to tackling. Kerala’s gam play gets severely affected if both these players don’t play well, and hence in the coming games one would expect them to perform better.