Ishfaq Ahmed: We missed Messi Bouli tonight

After conceding 12 goals in their last three matches, Kerala Blasters FC managed to register a much-needed clean sheet but couldn't find a goal, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday. The point keeps Kerala in 8th spot in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 table.

While speaking at the post-match press conference, Kerala assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed praised the discipline with which his players executed the game plan on the night and said, “We did everything according to the plan. We know that they (NorthEast) play really compact. If you see their previous matches against ATK (FC) or Mumbai (City FC), they only lost 1-0 but had their chances. The results could have been different. We knew they were going to stay really compact.”

Speaking about the match, he noted, “First half, they hardly got any shot on target. It was a lapse of concentration, which we are struggling with, that allowed one chance for Nikhil Kadam in the second half. But that’s why goalkeepers are there and he (Bilal Khan) made a fantastic save. I think that was the only chance they got in the whole match. I am really pleased with how we played.”

Moving further, the 36-year-old expressed his disappointment with the Blasters’ inability to convert their chances. He stated, “Honestly, we got a few chances and we couldn’t capitalize on them. We knew that there was going to be only a few chances against them. At the end, it’s a fair result. We are a little bit disappointed, but in away matches you need to take what you get. Now, we concentrate on the next match (against Bengaluru FC), which is a big derby for us.”

Asked if striker Messi Bouli’s absence due to a suspension was a big handicap for the team, Ishfaq admitted, “We definitely missed him. His physical presence is a big worry for defenders. They have two tall defenders so Messi would have been really helpful. He is back for the next match and let’s see how things go.”

Addressing midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad’s performance in the match, the Kerala assistant coach opined, “I’m very happy that he has incorporated that physical part in his game. I know he is a gifted player. But I think our coach (Eelco Schattorie) wanted that physical side to him. Hats off to him. He is working really hard on that part of his game. He is definitely working hard to become a better player. I have no doubts that he will be one of the best in the country in the future.”

Read the Match Report here.

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