We didn't deserve to lose: NorthEast United FC's Vincenzo Annese
NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese was satisfied with his team's performance despite the Highlanders going down to Chennaiyin FC in a seven-goal thriller in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Friday.
The home team opened the scoring in the third minute with Rahim Ali breaking through and slotting past Arindam Bhattacharja. Both teams were separated by a solitary goal headed into half-time. The Marina Machans were top on the visitors in the opening phases of the second half only for Jordan Gil equalising for the Highlanders in the 52nd minute. The celebrations were cut short in the 56th minute with Kwame Karikari slotting past Bhattacharja and Anirudh Thapa added his name to the scoresheet with a thunderous strike in the 62nd minute.
NorthEast United FC made the comeback in the match initiated by Parthib Gogoi's screamer from outside of the box in the 74th minute. Gil scored his second goal of the night in the 81st minute as the match looked to head for a draw, but it was Sajal Bag's late goal in the dying moments of the match which confirmed the victory for the Marina Machans.
Chennaiyin FC finished the season in the eighth position with seven victories, six draws and seven losses in 20 matches. Meanwhile, NorthEast United FC wrapped up their season with their 17th defeat of the season as the Highlanders finished with just five points in 20 matches.
An epic goal fest to mark the end of the season for both teams saw each set of players giving their all. Annese expressed how the team didn't deserve to lose and added how such closely-fought fixtures will make the team better.
💔— NorthEast United FC (@NEUtdFC) February 24, 2023
Our #HeroISL season ends in a defeat. #CFCNEU #NEUFC #StrongerAsOne #8States1United pic.twitter.com/tCLMAZ6T16
"The atmosphere here in Chennai was amazing, we played so well. We didn't deserve to lose, we made little mistakes but we offered a lot on the other end as well. We've lost some close games in the league and such fixtures will make the team better. We have had great progression since the beginning," Annese said in the post-match press conference.
The Italian took over NorthEast United FC in place of Marco Balbul in December. The Highlanders have shown improvements since the change of the head coach and registered their first victory under Annese against ATK Mohun Bagan. Annese stated how the team's progressing in different aspects and the club needs to believe in the change.
"It's been two months and 15 days since I've been with the team and to see the change and preparations game-by-game so far, we've done so well. We've changed and improved a lot in the last two months, be it physically, technically, or tactically. So we need to believe in the change more and more so we can reach a high level. We need to be competitive and fit for Hero ISL because I don't like to lose and since I've been here we've seen a lot of defeats but we are starting to change a lot," he said.
NorthEast United FC would now look to regroup and prepare for the Hero Super Cup. The Highlanders have finished last in the league standings and lost all of their away games. Annese revealed he wants to continue his journey with the Highlanders next season and reiterated how things will turn in their favour with constant belief and focus.
"I hope that I get the opportunity to be here next season. Chennaiyin FC who are just three points away from the playoffs, we played a close game against them and the same with Bengaluru FC, we lost to them due to a last-minute goal by Alan Costa, so we've fought shoulder to shoulder with all these teams. We need to go in this way to believe and focus on game-by-game and training-by-training and all will be good," Annese said.
"The fans must understand the way we were playing before and how we are playing now. I hope that many fans watched the game today because it doesn't matter that we lost 4-3, they must be happy and proud of the players. The more we play the more we improve. We are strong and we are a team now. I hope I can give a good effort for the Super Cup. I hope they keep me first, with me we can improve as the staff, we can improve our playing style and we can really achieve something important for NorthEast United FC," Annese concluded.