As we await the beginning of the Super Cup, it only seems right to cast our minds back to the beginning of the season and look back over one of the teams who have failed to make it to the inaugural Super Cup. Steve is taking care of the Delhi review as they also didn’t make it and I’m looking at NorthEast’s season; the way we’re going to work it is, we’ll be looking at each month in isolation and seeing what went well and what went wrong. Simple, right?
So, the season started in November, however, the story is going to get going ever so slightly before that. Looking back at the end of the 2016 season, they came incredibly close to finishing in the top four, only a final day defeat to Kerala prevented them if they had made the end of season playoffs, who knows what might have been?
Zokora Sadly Departed After Featuring In Every Game
As the story goes, they finished fifth and because of the draft they had to essentially start again. Ex-Spurs man, Didier Zokora, who featured in every game of the 2016 season departed to Indonesia, Emiliano Alfaro went to Pune, so on and so forth.
Due to their final day slip against Kerala, it still meant that NorthEast still hadn’t made the top-four in any of the ISL seasons thus far. Something had to change. Joao de Deus was the man tasked with bringing greatness to the ‘Highlanders’ and he came in with a wealth of experience from working in his native Portugal and Joao would’ve had his heart set on bringing the good times to the North East of India, hence the name!
“I can assure the fans that we will play positive football and that all the players and the staff will work hard. We will leave no stone unturned so that we can achieve our objectives. I believe that young players are important in any campaign and will ensure that they fit seamlessly into our setup.
This year, we will be focused on playing good football and winning as many games as we can, taking it one game at a time.”
Joao Was Hoping The Brazilians Would Hit The Ground Running
He could certainly talk the talk, but could he walk the walk?
Brazilians Marcinho, Danilo and Adilson Goiano were the trio that Joao de Deus was pinning the majority of his hopes on. We’ll quickly run through pre-season… It was the dictionary definition of a ‘mixed bag’ as they won two, drew three and lost two.
Before they set off for a training camp in Turkey, they faced-off with I-League side NEROCA and got off to the best possible start as goals for Danilo and Sushil Meitel gave Joao de Deus a win at the first time of asking. While wins aren’t the most important part of pre-season, only getting one win out of the next six isn’t the greatest of starts to have, nevertheless, if the league campaign got off to a good start, all would be forgotten.
Their league campaign kicked off against a completely unknown entity in Jamshedpur FC, the Steve Coppell managed side had only come into existence prior to the ISL season kicking off meaning that Joao de Deus’ scouts had nothing to really go off.
A Sizeable Crowd Left Disappointed
I’ll level with you. Not a lot happened. Andre Bikey got sent off for Jamshedpur which is hardly going to surprise anyone, but the game still finished 0-0. Joao’s comment when he took over was we will play positive football and you have to say they went for the win which was promising, albeit, out of their four shots on target, only one was from inside the penalty area which tells you one of two things. Either Jamshedpur are very good defensively OR NorthEast bottle it in the final third; as we recap the later months, it’ll all become clear.
A crowd of 21,151 came out to support NorthEast and they would’ve been disappointed that they didn’t have more to cheer about, all was not lost, mind as they kept a clean sheet and dominated for large periods of the game. Substitute Halicharan Narzary very nearly won it in the dying embers of the game, sometimes things aren’t meant to be though as his pocket-rocket just missed the target.
All in all, a point is a point, not the best way to start the season, nor was it the worst. Another English manager was in the opposing dugout for the last game of this part of the review. John Gregory, come on down! Yes, that’s a reference to ‘The Price Is Right’ and I’m not ashamed one bit.
Bold Claims Prior To Chennai
Gregory’s Chennaiyin fell to an opening day defeat at the expense of FC Goa in a five-goal thriller which showed that Chennai had some character as they were 3-0 down at halftime so clawing it back to 3-2 showed fight. Joao de Deus kept faith with the eleven that had picked up a point in the opening game of the season and he was in a buoyant mood pre-game as he said:
“About the previous game (against Jamshedpur FC), we did not score. The first thing is that it is a problem if you don’t create chances. But we had a lot of chances and so it is not a problem. We know how to improve. I’m not worried at all that we did not score. I know that at the end of the league, we will have the top goalscorer in the league. I’m not worried at all.”
Bold, bold claim regarding the top goalscorer. He was right about the rest though as the chances were there, it was just the cutting-edge that was missing. From that then, you’d expect NorthEast to get a result, right? Not exactly…
They shipped three goals without reply despite having more of the ball and having more shots than their opposition. Nonetheless, Joao was still adamant about one thing…
“I continue to believe that my team will have the top scorer. I’m not going to change my opinion because I’m the one who is working with my boys. It is easy for you to say that but today, we had good chances to score. The problem is when you don’t create opportunities. But we created opportunities today and it was unfortunate we did not score today.”
Anyone starting to see a pattern emerge here? Why would you keep harping on about having the top goalscorer in your side after not scoring in the opening two games is beyond me. At least he got this right.
“We lost because the opponents scored three times and we didn’t score. We lacked concentration through the match. What can you say when you concede the goals like this. The first one, I don’t want to speak about. And the third goal was also a poor one and we should not have conceded.”
All The Shots But No Success
It wasn’t that Chennaiyin were better than NorthEast, it was more to do with the fact that they were more clinical and precise in everything that they did. After all, there is no point in making more passes and having more shots than your opponents if you’re not going to do make it count.
With two games played, NorthEast were third in the shot count table that Chris featured in an early edition of the ‘Power Rankings’, yet they were languishing in the table with just a solitary point from two games.
Not the best of starts for NorthEast & Joao de Deus, surely December was an improvement?
Find out next time.