NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese expressed that this was his team's best away performance of the season so far after the Highlanders lost 2-0 to Kerala Blasters FC in the latest fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, on Sunday.

Two quick-fire goals by Dimitrios Diamantakos in the span of three minutes at the end of the first half helped Kerala Blasters FC return to winning ways. No goals were scored in the second half after a stern performance from NorthEast United FC. The Highlanders created plenty chances as they went down fighting against a spirited Kerala Blasters FC team.

The Yellow Army moved to the third spot in the Hero ISL points table after their ninth victory in 15 matches. Meanwhile, the Highlanders suffered their 14th defeat of the season. NorthEast United FC head coach Annese rued his side's missed chances where they could’ve hurt Ivan Vukomanovic’s side.

"I’m happy with the performance because we created two or three chances, but we didn’t score. We missed many counter-attacks where we could’ve punished them. I’m happy because this is the best away performance we have had since I’ve been here for the last eight games. It’s not easy to play against Kerala Blasters FC after their two consecutive defeats. I noted their quality, especially the foreign players, they made a big difference between both teams,’’ Annese said in the post-match press conference.

The hosts made six changes to their playing eleven after suffering two consecutive defeats in the last two matches. Annese highlighted that Adrian Luna was the difference maker between both teams. The Uruguyan midfielder was involved in every move that Kerala Blasters FC made and supplied the assist for Diamantakos' second goal.

“(Adrian) Luna ran for the whole 90 minutes. He ran everywhere in the field and didn’t stop. He was present in attack and defence, it’s remarkable. He made the big difference between both teams. He was able to find spaces, he created space for other players in his team. I think many times that teamwork is crucial for the results but the incredible quality of player like Luna (is also crucial),’’ Annese stated.

NorthEast United FC's new signing Joseba Beitia was given his first start as the Highlanders took the field without their suspended captain Wilmar Gil. The NorthEast United FC head coach was pleased with the Spaniard's performance for the team and mentioned that he will be an important player for the team in the upcoming matches.

“He (Joseba Beitia) performed so well because he has only trained with the team for four days. It’s a big plus for us as we have fewer foreign players in our team especially since our captain (Wilmar Gil) is out for three matchday, due to the suspension. We need this kind of player since our Spanish midfielder (Jon Gatzanaga) left the team, we need this kind of personality in the middle and I think he did well. He’ll settle into the team step-by-step and game-by-game because it’s only been four days (since he arrived) and he played directly. I really liked his performance,’’ Annese added.

It was another disappointing outing for Annese’s men where they struggled to convert their chances while conceding goals at the other end of the pitch. NorthEast United FC have now conceded 43 goals in 16 league matches. Annese mentioned how few minutes before the end of the first half did the damage.

“I’m happy with the players I have, I don’t complain, new coach, new strategy. During the game, (Gaurav) Bora got injured, he goes out and then he came back and amidst all this we conceded two goals in three minutes. Maybe if we had Bora in the field then we can believe in something more. If we finished the first half 0-0, then maybe they can get nervous and then we try to play, counter-attack and try to play in a better way but we did well in every position," Annese said.

With the team positioned at the bottom of the Hero ISL points table with just four points, the Highlanders would look to end the season at a high with four games more to go. Annese expressed that the next match is an opportunity for the team to get a win and that the team will move forward step by step.

“Now we play against one team (Jamshedpur FC) where we need to get the win and the plan for the next season is working with the technical director. I’m ready to turn the things around and do the maximum and best for my players. I think we’ve done well till now, we built something important for the future. It doesn’t matter that the results are not coming but this is a process. I believe so much in hard work and good advice for the future. Step by step we can really move forward also we need to try something more and we need to do more game-by-game," he concluded.