NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali lamented his side’s finishing as they suffered a narrow defeat to Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday. 

Odisha FC took the lead through Diego Mauricio, capitalising on an error by NorthEast United FC goalkeeper Mirshad Michu. The first half was clearly dominated by Odisha FC, but NorthEast United FC came alive in the second half. They pushed the hosts onto the back foot and created numerous opportunities to get back into the game but struggled to find the back of the net.

Both Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC managed to register a total of three shots on target during the evening, but ultimately, Mauricio's strike proved to be the decisive factor in the match. Reflecting on the result, Benali was dissatisfied with his team's performance in the first half.

“It’s not only because the goalkeeper made the mistake (for the first goal), the whole team made mistakes,” Benali said in the post-match press conference. “First half, we were not here (mentally), we stayed in Guwahati. We were all over the place, we didn't play. We did absolutely nothing. What to work, what to (do). It was not us. It was not NorthEast United FC. Second half, we made the changes and the team changed totally with Romain (Philippoteaux) and Pragyan Gogoi. We got chances. We knew they were tired and (knew) they couldn’t go (around running). But the problem is that we didn’t finish the actions when we arrived in the area. We could draw (the game). This is football,” he added.

NorthEast United FC has now suffered their second defeat of the season. Previously, they had been unbeaten in their four games, delivering resilient performances. Benali apologised to the NorthEast United FC supporters for the result but remained optimistic about how his team performed in the second half after conceding the goal.

“We’re sorry (to the fans) for the first half (performance). They don't deserve (to see) the team to play like this in the first half, including me,” he expressed.

“In the second half, we were NorthEast United FC. Proud of our players (for the way they performed in the second half). Fantastic. If we go and play like we did in the second half, we can go far away. If we play like we did in the first half, we will go nowhere," Benali concluded.