Robert Jarni’s time as NorthEast head coach comes to an end

NorthEast United FC, on Monday, announced that the club has parted ways with Croatian head coach Robert Jarni. The Highlanders have already dropped off the race for the top four in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 and will take the field without Jarni at the helm for their three remaining matches. His last match in charge was a 3-3 home draw against Jamshedpur FC. As per a press release by the club, assistant coach Khalid Jamil will take over as the interim coach until the club identifies a suitable replacement.

The FIFA World Cup 1998 semi-finalist took charge of NorthEast leading up to the season and started his time in India on a positive note, as the Highlanders remained unbeaten in their first six matches of the campaign, picking up ten points from these fixtures. Starting mid-December, 2019, however, injuries to several key players, particularly Ghanaian icon Asamoah Gyan derailed the Highlanders’ charge to claim a semi-final spot for the second season running.

In the following nine games, Jarni managed to secure just three draws, with the lack of positive goal scorers hurting the team dearly. At the time of Jarni’s departure, the club is rooted one place above the bottom spot with 13 points from 15 games with no chance of finishing in the top four.

Despite the underwhelming results, however, Jarni’s willingness and courage to give youngsters game time even when the chips are down, have helped unearth several future stars from within the NorthEast ranks. The likes of Ninthoi and Lalengmawia have particularly benefitted under the Croat’s tutelage as they emerged as silver linings in NorthEast’s otherwise disappointing season so far. While 19-year-old Lalengmawia’s maturity and composure on the ball at the middle of the park has earned plaudits from pundits, 18-year-old Ninthoi’s flair down the wings has been an exciting watch for not only the NorthEast faithful, but Indian football fans as well.

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