Indian Super League (ISL) side NorthEast United FC slumped to their ninth defeat of the campaign as they suffered a heavy 1-4 defeat to Mumbai City FC.

The Highlanders found themselves 0-3 down at half-time, which only made things difficult for them. However, they showed resilience and grit in the second half, managing to reduce their deficit. However, it was too late for them to overturn the deficit.

Following the end of Matchweek 19, Juan Pedro Benali’s side find themselves placed ninth with 20 points from 19 games. They are one point short of the sixth spot with close competitors Jamshedpur FC, Bengaluru FC and Punjab FC tied level on 21 points after 19 games.

Albiach revealed there was the belief among his teammates that they could turn things around despite a difficult start against Mumbai City FC.

“We knew it would be a difficult game. At the beginning of the game despite the tough start, we believed that we could get at least a point if not three,” Albiach said in an exclusive interview as he looked back at the game.

“But they took advantage early in the third minute (by scoring) and then minute by minute it became very difficult for us,” he added.

NorthEast United FC missed the presence of Tomi Juric, Hamza Regragui and Romain Phillipoteaux against Mumbai City FC. Striker Juric, in particular, has been a standout performer for the team in recent games. Having signed for the team during the January transfer window, he netted five goals across four games for the Highlanders before picking up a hamstring injury.

When asked if the absence of the trio weakened the team’s strength in their last league fixture, Albiach said: “Mumbai City FC started with three foreign players as well, so it’s not an excuse. We don't think about the injured players. We have to work with the players that are available and fight with that.”

Despite a mixed run of results this season, NorthEast United FC are still gunning for a playoff spot. That’s a big improvement from last season, where they finished bottom of the standings. At the start of the season, they had an impressive campaign in the Durand Cup, where they reached the semi-finals under new head coach Benali. They finished second in the Kalinga Super Cup league table and lost by a narrow margin to group winners Jamshedpur FC.

Albiach said his team will give their all in their remaining league games and highlighted the progress the team has made this season.

“We have to fight until the end. In the pre-season, during the summer, not many expected us to fight for the top six. We have to focus on our game and correct our mistakes.

"We have three games left. We have to do our best to stand a chance of qualifying for the top six if possible. If we can make the playoffs, it will be good. If not, no problem,” he explained.

The Spaniard, who has been one of NorthEast United FC’s new signings, has been a key player for the Highlanders under Benali. The versatile forward has contributed three goals and as many assists across 17 games this season. Earlier in February, the club rewarded him with a contract extension.

Benali has deployed Albiach in multiple attacking positions this season and that has got the best out of Albiach, who has displayed his playmaking and goal-scoring abilities. Albiach heaped praise on his compatriot and revealed the meticulous tactical planning by Benali that helps them prepare for each game.

“I have no words to describe Benali. He is a top coach. We train very hard under him and he helps us prepare for everything that we have to do on the field,” Albiach signed off.