NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese highlighted fatigue and lack of rest as reasons for their 0-4 defeat to Mumbai City FC, in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena, in Mumbai, on Thursday.

Ahmed Jahouh opened the scoring early on, and then there was no stopping the high-flying table toppers who scored four goals past NorthEast United FC in the first half itself. A red card to Wilmar Gil early on in the second half piled more misery on the away team as the Highlanders suffered their 13th defeat of the campaign. Annese felt Gil's sending off made it more difficult for his side to mount a comeback against Mumbai City FC.

“We did not have enough time to rest, it cannot be an excuse but I can see that we lost control in the middle of the park as we lost one player (Wilmar Gil) who can give us the confidence to attack and enter in our attacking phase. We tried to correct it as much as we could after losing (Gil) and tried to counter attack with Romian (Philippoteaux), but it did not work, we conceded the first goal through a deflection, which got us discouraged,” Annese said in the official post-match press conference.

“We covered well in the second half, did well, and I hope we take this good defensive phase into the next game and try to play with positivity,” he added.

One positive for NorthEast United FC was that they did not concede against the home team after going a man down. Annese stated that his players were ready to fight for the game in the second half and that they played with a strong mentality.

“We know the quality of players there in Mumbai, we know that they have played (together) for many years, but the players were ready to fight and the mentality was there. Tactically, we needed to stay compact and keep ourselves in a good mindset to play in the second half. We take the positive points from tonight, which was our defensive line, and improve more in attack,” the NEUFC head coach stated.

“We are trying to make forward steps for the next season and improve our players, try to play each game as if it is our last game, and get good results,” he added.

NorthEast United FC's hopes of making the top six are all but over. Annese called for his side to improve their performance in the attacking third and shift focus on the upcoming games. 

“We need to analyse each game and believe in ourselves, and the team deserves to be at the top. There are tough games coming up, we need to create more opportunities and have more possession for our attacking phase,” Annese concluded.