Vingada happy with Kerala's evolving style, Ontong hails NorthEast's ‘outstanding’ defence

A ten-man NorthEast United FC stood firm to play out a goalless draw and deny Kerala Blasters FC a chance to end their Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 campaign with a win at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Having already secured a spot in the semi-finals, NorthEast confirmed the fourth place in the standings with 29 points from 18 matches and will now face Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals.

At the post-match press conference, Kerala head coach Nelo Vingada shared his views on the stalemate and said, "Our team tried to play. Our team controlled the game. We created some good chances. They had only one situation at the beginning of the second-half. It was difficult. Also, it was not easy to attack as they were defending deep."

"The positive thing is we never kicked the ball long. We tried to play right, left or shoot. Our final ball was not according to the level required. We have to learn what was not so good. I believe that now we're different and are more positive. The next season will be better for Kerala and the team will be on another level to bring a lot of happiness for the fans, for the city, for the club," he added.

Asked why the team was unable to break down the opposition despite having the numerical advantage for the majority of the match, Vingada said, "When we were playing against 11, they tried to come forward which created some space for us to counter attack. But when they went down to 10, the chance to counter-attack disappeared because they were playing in the last 20 metres near their box. But credits to NorthEast. It's not easy to play with 10 men and hold us to a 0-0 draw."

From the Highlanders' end, assistant coach Shaun Ontong deputized for head coach Eelco Schattorie and quickly rebuffed any suggestions that the draw would adversely impact NorthEast's bid for the title as the result pits them against table toppers Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals. He said, "At the moment, with Gurwinder Singh getting suspended, that’s going to be something we have to assess and look into. Other than that, this game wouldn’t really affect the outcome."

Ontong then praised new recruit Janeiler Rivas, who impressed on his debut for the team. "The new centre back (Rivas) who has come in, has done a really good job," he said.

He also hailed the team's defensive showing on the night and said, "We started the game in a different formation. Some young players were given an opportunity. Unfortunately, we had to make a change straightaway because of the red card. We are so proud of the performance today, especially defensively. I thought we were outstanding. The effort was what got us the point today."

Read the Match Report here.

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