FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena urged his side to replicate their performance that they put up against Odisha FC and show more consistency ahead of their meeting with NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

The Gaurs are currently placed six on the Hero ISL table after 15 points from nine matches. They will be up against an NorthEast United FC side who are still searching their first point of the season after nine games.

Pena, who attended the pre-match press conference alongside defender Anwar Ali, said his team need to focus on themselves and not the opposition, despite being wary of the fact that the Highlanders are winless this season. Pena also spoke about FC Goa’s inconsistent performances after a bright start to the season, putting faith in youngsters, and more.

Here are the excerpts from Pena:

What is the reason behind FC Goa’s inconsistency this season?

Pena: Well I think we have had different problems in different games. It’s true that in the first couple of games, we didn’t have continuity with the players, because some of them were out due to injuries and it was difficult to find a starting eleven with continuity. This happens when the team, the foreign players, and the coaching staff is new. It takes time to find this consistency.

We’re trying to find this consistency. In the last game, I felt the team competed really well but it’s time to repeat this performance. On Saturday, the next game, and the next game and ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

NorthEast United FC have lost all their nine matches. How do you prepare for a match like this?

Pena: In this league, we will suffer, but we have to focus on ourselves and focus on repeating the same performance against Odisha FC. Everyone knows that NorthEast United FC have not won any games, but they have changed their head coach. They are trying to find the point, the first victory and you don’t need to have any confidence to do that. Our goal for Saturday is to repeat our good performance (against Odisha FC), get the three points and to be consistent.

We see clubs changing their head coaches and the results start coming quickly. How wary are you about that?

Pena: They changed the coach 10 days ago. The players, the club have pride and they want to make the fans happy and they are coming on Saturday to get their first victory. But we have to work our way. We know what we have to do to win the game. We have to be focused on ourselves and try to make a good game. If we drop in confidence, we will make a big mistake.

You have given a lot of chances to youngsters this season and you have put your faith in them. What has made you believe in them?

Pena: Their quality. If I’m using them, it’s because of their quality. When I arrived here, I knew that I am not going to look at the background of any player. If he wants to play and if he deserves to play, he is going to play. And these young players at FC Goa have a lot of quality. It’s not about my work, it’s about the recruitment staff, the coaches, and the people working with academy and everyone at the club. FC Goa has this identity and they are there for young players. I'm happy to have these quality players in my squad by my side and Im very clear with them.

If they deserve, they are going to play. And about mistakes, football is a game of mistakes. The one who doesn’t try will not make mistakes. The most important thing is to learn from the mistakes and not to repeat them again. It’s a process and with young players you need to give them that confidence to work on their mistakes. They have to work and improve in somethings, but if the young players don’t feel the confidence of the coaching staff, it’s very difficult to improve. Also, they are around good experienced players and we have a good balance of players.

How do you assess Anwar Ali performances this season?

Pena: If I have put him in the starting eleven, it is because he is deserving. Anwar caught my attention last season. I watched all the games of FC Goa last season when I was in Spain. You don’t really know a player until he’s under you and you spend some days in training. Anwar has a bright future. He has a lot of skills and he is helping us a lot in attack and in defence.

He is in a great environment for him because FC Goa got him after what was a difficult moment for him. I hope he can stay with us for many more years. It’s important for the young players to be at the place where you feel the people around love you. I'm very happy with his performances. He has to improve in many things and with his mentality, he has a great career ahead.

How do you assess the team’s performances and your performances as a head coach?

Pena: Starting from myself, I feel I am a better coach that what I was four months ago because I have learned during this time. About the team, from where we came from last season after finishing in the ninth position, there have been many changes in the squad and the coaching staff. The most important thing before the start of the season was to assemble the players and a squad that can beat anyone.

When you come after a bad season, this is difficult and I think we have achieved this. Because players now feel that we can beat anyone. We showed that against ATK Mohun Bagan and Odisha FC. We competed against Hyderabad FC. But now it’s time to have more consistency if we want to take the next step. We need to compete with the best teams in the league and we need to be consistent. Saturday is another big challenge for me, the players and the squad because we want to get the three points. We want to be the team again that we were last Saturday. Step by step this team is roaring and I feel that we are improving.

Alvaro Vazquez scored his first goal of the season and he seemed very relieved. How do you look at his performances so far. Do you think the goal that he scored will give him more confidence?

Pena: Without a doubt. I felt what he was going through after the game. Sometimes a goal can change the mood for a number 9 and it will help him a lot. The rest of the players were happy that he scored a goal and they want to see him happy. But now, I will have to make decision (of the starting eleven against NorthEast United FC) and I am happy my forwards are scoring goals. I’m happy to have all the players available. I will try to make them perform the best and I’m happy that any player can contribute to the team.

Here are the excerpts from Anwar:

FC Goa have not been consistent this season. What do you think is the reason behind that?

Anwar: The game of football is such that some matches go well, and some do not. So it’s the same with us. Whatever games we have lost so far, it has been due to our own mistakes, including myself. The performances keep going up and down but we are trying to correct our mistakes. Now against NorthEast United FC, we have an advantage at home as it’s a different feeling playing at home. We are trying to be consistent and trying to correct our mistakes match by match.

Do you think FC Goa have an advantage given that NorthEast United FC are yet to win a game this season?

Anwar: There are no easy matches in this league. Yes, they have lost nine games but they have played well. They are a good team as every other teams in the Hero ISL. Even they come with an intent to win every game, the same as us. It will be a tough game but we are prepared as a team. We will give our mistakes.

How do you correct your mistakes and ensure they are not repeated again?

Anwar: I analyse my own mistakes after the game. Obviously, you don’t feel good if you make a mistake and then in the team meeting the coach discusses it with us. I try to ensure not to repeat the same mistakes.

The coach tells me that it is okay to make mistakes, but he advises me not to lose focus. He tells me not to dwell too much on the mistakes and focus on the next match.

You have been playing regularly for club and country. What is the next step for you?

Anwar: I have never won a trophy at club level or national level, so that is the next step that I want to take.

FC Goa like to play out from the back and the defenders are very important in this aspect. Do you feel the team’s style suits your game better?

Anwar: It’s difficult playing out from the back as the attack begins with the defensive line. But if there’s a mistake from me I try to not repeat it again. I like playing out from the back because I have been watching FC Goa play this way from the start. This is one of the reasons I joined FC Goa because I enjoy their game.