NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali expressed delight with his team's development after they secured a comfortable 3-0 win against Odisha FC in their final Indian Super League (ISL) game this season at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. 

Parthib Gogoi scored an early opener for the Highlanders within 12 minutes from kickoff. Within the next four minutes, Nestor Albiach beautifully controlled the ball from the edge of the opponent’s box and beat the keeper to double their lead.

In the 24th minute of the match, Hamza Regragui gave the Kalinga Warriors an opportunity to come back into the game by conceding a penalty for a reckless challenge on Pranjal Bhumij inside the NorthEast United FC penalty box. However, Roy Krishna’s effort from the spot was saved by Mirshad KM, keeping their two-goal lead intact.

Seconds before the halftime whistle, Phalguni Singh made the score 3-0 for the Highlanders, which they managed to defend throughout the second half, drawing curtains on their ISL 2023-24 season with a convincing victory.

The head coach is pleased with how his team has developed throughout the season.

We are a good team. We're making a very good team. We need to just adjust some points, you know, and the problem is that for these points we need time to understand the way we can win the games. Now we start to know the way we want to play. And now we need to start to learn the way we win the games,” stated Benali in the post-match press conference.

He added, “One of the biggest problems we had is we had no rhythm because it was a lot of time between a game and another. If you see most of the games we won is when we are playing following a schedule and playing a game every week or every week two games, it's easier.”

“But I congratulate the players. They had a great season and did a great job,” he continued. 

Benali’s men finish off the season in seventh spot, with 26 points from 22 games, a point below sixth-placed Chennaiyin FC who still have a game in hand. 

Sharing his insights into the season, the Spaniard said, “We lost the playoff many games before, you know, many, many points before. We dropped a lot. And, that's the price we should pay for putting young players. That’s the price of learning. That’s the price of transition, we pay it. And now we are ready to win. That's the most important thing. That's the message we have for next season. Win, win, and win.”

However, Benali expressed disappointment in the lack of support the team has received so far and believes that an increase in supporters in the stands could make a big difference in the results. He further shares insights into the club's plan for next year, aiming to extend fan engagement.

He shared, “I think the only point that we are missing, is not a white point. I can say the little black point is we need supporters. I think it's the only point that is missing in the club. We can and we could win more games (if they are there).” 

“Today we had a meeting before, in the morning that the club is willing to go to all the cities of Northeast to play. We just waiting for the different stadiums to be ready. And we're trying also to play some friendly games to show everyone that we are all the regions, 'the eight states’ team. But when we play in Guwahati, we need people, we need fans, we need supporters," Benali continued. 

Summarising how the team has changed this season, the 55-year-old said, “We have more points than the last two seasons together. We developed a team from scratch, from minus five, to where we are now.”

Benali concluded the press conference by expressing his pride in choosing NorthEast United FC over other clubs and considering it to be his best decision.

“The best thing for me was not accepting other offers from other teams and coming to NorthEast United FC. It's true, it's true. I did the best thing to come to India for the last three years. I had many offers to come, and I think I came at the right moment, in the right place, with the right people,” he signed off.