NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali was proud of his team’s effort following their 4-2 loss against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Matchweek 15 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.

Australian forward Tomi Juric opened the scoring for the Highlanders early in the game converting from the spot six minutes into the match. In first-half stoppage time, Liston Colaco bagged the Mariners their equaliser which was soon followed by Jason Cummings’ tap-in, turning things around in favour of Mohun Bagan SG, at halftime. 

Five minutes into the second half, Benali’s men levelled the scores through Juric’s second goal of the night, but within the next three minutes, Dimitri Petratos scored the third for the Mariners, regaining their lead. In another four minutes, Sahal Abdul Samad scored the final goal of the match, making it 4-2 for Mohun Bagan SG. 

The head coach believes his team worked hard in the first half but within seconds when they fumbled, the Mariners made them pay. 

We worked very, very hard in the first half. And suddenly, with two sleeping seconds, we received two goals. Especially against a big team with big players, like Mohun Bagan SG have, you cannot make mistakes,” stated Benali in the post-match press conference.

The Spanish tactician blamed missed opportunities for the loss.

“The problem is we had many chances to score, but we didn't convert. And Mohun Bagan gets half a chance and they score against you. You know this is the difference. You know experienced players, quality players,” said Benali.

Acknowledging the lack of experience in his side, he added, “We have quality but we need experience. We have a lot of young players doing the job and we hope next time we don't make the same mistakes, we can learn from it.”

The 54-year-old will sleep well tonight because he is proud of how his team approached the match against the Mariners in their home. 

“We knew how Mohun Bagan SG were going to play. The game plan was perfect. We did it perfectly. But as you see, the first half, was a throw-in, a set piece. We slept, and they scored. The second one was a foul. We slept again and they scored. That's the difference, you know. But, when a team like us arrives and plays against Mohun Bagan SG in their home like we do, looking at the eyes, we need to be proud. I will sleep very well tonight,” he shared.

He added, “I think the two goals in the first half hurt us at the last minute. Then we become 2-2. The problem is, we should have calmed down again. But we thought that we could go again for the game and we paid for it.”