Coppell satisfied with hard-fought stalemate

NorthEast United FC and ATK played out a goalless draw at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. The point helped the Highlanders leapfrog Mumbai City FC to occupy the second spot in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) table. Both teams are level on points, but NorthEast have a better goal difference which puts them higher in the standings. The Islanders, however, have a match in hand. ATK, on the other hand, stay sixth with 16 points from 11 outings.

For ATK head coach Steve Coppell, it was a satisfactory result. But the Englishman also claimed that his team had the better chances to win the match. "To come here is a difficult task. We looked to attack without overcommitting ourselves. I think if you come here and overcommit, they will take advantage. They had a couple of shots from distance, but apart from that, I can’t remember them creating a great deal whereas when I look at what we did, I thought we had some really good opportunities. It was a very tight game. Two teams who were evenly matched. But I felt we edged it," he said.

ATK's attacking prowess has been considerably diminished this season after injuries to Kalu Uche and Emiliano Alfaro. When asked if the absence of a recognized striker had any adverse effects on his team, Coppell said, "It was bound to have an effect. I thought Balwant Singh tonight, once again, was excellent. He led the line well by himself. I thought he had a very strong performance for us. I was pleased with what he did. These things happen in football. You lose players but we’re not going to complain. Balwant filled big shoes. It would be nice for him if he can finish it off with a goal. Maybe against Bengaluru."

From NorthEast's end, assistant coach Shaun Ontong attended the post-match press conference. He, too, expressed his satisfaction with the result, especially given the Highlanders' busy schedule in the past week. "Obviously you don’t go into any game wanting to draw the game. But considering our schedule and what we’ve had to overcome, we’re extremely happy and extremely proud of the guys. It was a very fatigued team out there, but we defended very well. Although we didn’t create as many chances as we wanted to, I still think we defended very well and dominated most of the game," he said.

NorthEast defender Mislav Komorski came off in the first-half after suffering a thigh injury. Asked if the incident was a result of fatigue, Shaun said, "We don’t know that yet. It’s something that we will discuss with the staff and see how he is tomorrow. Obviously, with back-to-back matches and the way we have been playing and travelling, yes it can be part of it. It’s really unfortunate that he had to come off tonight."

Read the match report here.

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