NorthEast United FC are breathing easy after their first points in the Indian Super League (ISL) but there will be hardly any time to savour the dramatic win as Atletico de Kolkata come calling to the Assamese metropolis here on Friday.
NorthEast United scored a dramatic last-minute win over Chennaiyin FC in their last game for only their first points on the table, and victory, in four matches. Having lost three matches in a row and looking a bit rattled, coach Cesar Farias had to pull a rabbit out of his hat and he managed to do that despite having several players injured.
Marquee player Simao Sabrosa played his first match for NorthEast and scored a penalty too under pressure. With a victory under their belt, Farias believes things will now fall into place.
“I am happy with the performance of my players against Chennaiyin FC. We now have a crucial game coming up next against the defending champions and we need to put in our best effort. I hope it will be a packed house on that day,” said Farias.
Sabrosa, the former Portugal and Barcelona winger, did not seem to be in any discomfort in the last game when he took the field as a second half substitute and looks set to spark his team’s revival right from the start against the defending champions at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.
Atletico de Kolkata will not be easy. Antonio Lopez Habas’ teams are always difficult to break down. Having lost to FC Pune City in their last match — an unusual setback for the defending champions — Kolkata will be keen to make amends.
“We have to have confidence in the team because before the game (against Pune), Atletico de Kolkata was the only one team unbeaten. I know people will say this was bad and catastrophic, but the idea is to get to the final four. We will battle games mentally and physically,” said Habas.
The coach did not seem happy with his players after the game where FC Pune City scored in the second minute and then held on resolutely for the remainder of the match. Habas admitted his “mistake” in selecting the line-up and gave enough indications to suggest there will be changes.
Meanwhile, NE United on Friday roped in Carlos Javier Lopez to replace injured Zambian midfielder Kondwani Mtonga.
“Kondwani had suffered an ACL strain and meniscal injury which has ruled him out of the competition this year,” said a release from the franchise.
Lopez is an Argentine medio who has played in clubs like Tiro Federal (Argentina, 2010-2011) and Deportivo Italia (Venezuela, 2009-2010).
At the start of his career he had plied his trade for Mexican outfits Pachuca (2001-2002) and Merida (2003-2004). His last club was Deportivo Anzoátegui (Venezuela).