NorthEast United head coach Gerard Nus made five changes and dropped two points against FC Goa on Monday.
NorthEast United are running as the dark horses in the ongoing season of the Indian Super League (ISL). The Highlanders have started their campaign on a positive note as they registered one win and two draws from their three outings.
But team depth could cost them heavy and FC Goa at the Fatorda stadium on Monday was a testament to that. Gerard Nus took drastic decisions as he made five unforced changes to his starting line-up, given that the team was playing their third match in 10 days.
And the Highlanders ended up dropping two potential points against the Gaurs, settling for a 1-1 draw.
The changes saw Provat Lakra, Lalrempuia Fanai, Idrissa Sylla, Luis Machado and Britto PM replace Ashutosh Mehta, Federico Gallego, Kwesi Appiah, Ninthoinganba Meetei and Rakesh Pradhan.
As much as some of his decisions looked tactically correct, some were questionable. Sylla replacing Appiah could be justified as the former has the pace and ability to run behind the defender quicker than the latter. Besides he had also scored the equaliser for NorthEast against Kerala Blasters last time out and was in form.
But the decision to bench in-form Mehta, who was a star player for Mohun Bagan in the I-League last year, for Lakra did not go well for the Highlanders. The equaliser for FC Goa in the 43rd-minute came after Brandon Fernandes beat Lakra on the left flank to whip in a brilliant low cross to Igor Angulo who made no mistake to finish the ball at the back of the net.
Luis Machado started as one of the front three for the Highlanders and was involved in the game more often than not but to little effect. Machado took four free-kicks for the Higlanders in 66 minutes of play but his side could hardly benefit from it. His passing was sloppy on multiple occasions. As a result, he completed only nine passes from the intended 23, recording a dismal accuracy of 39 per cent. Other changes made by Nus – Fanai and Britto – justified their place with their decent displays.
Nus is the ninth manager for NorthEast United in the ISL. The Highlanders last managed to enter the ISL playoffs in its 2018-19 season. The Spanish coach has brought a positive impact on the side, with five points from three matches. They have scored in all their games so far and have shown considerable mental resolve at times, especially against Kerala Blasters where they clawed back a 2-0 deficit.
But, the Spaniard will hope to utilise his squad more effectively.
Though Nus, in the post-match interview, did not regret the decision to risk bringing in Lakra in place of Mehta, it will be interesting to see if how he rotates the team in the upcoming fixtures against East Bengal and Bengaluru FC respectively.